The transfer of up to six wolves from a northern Ontario island where they were starving to the U.S. is getting underway following a weeks-long delay caused by the federal government shutdown south of the border.
The small pack, including the alpha male and female, will be moved from Michipicoten Island to Isle Royale National Park, on the U.S. side of Lake Superior, where American officials hope the wolves will help keep the moose population in check.
“We need to get these wolves off the island, otherwise they’ll die,” said Aaron Bumstead, director of lands and economic development with Michipicoten First Nation who is coordinating the move with the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Last year, the province and the First Nation used several helicopters to move a total of 15 caribou — a threatened species in Ontario — off Michipicoten Island. Nine of the animals were transferred to the Slate Islands, and the other six to Caribou Island.
They were the last remaining caribou from a once-thriving herd on Michipicoten Island that started with just eight caribou in 1982 and grew to more than 700 by 2013 when four wolves reached the island after making the 15-kilometer trek across an ice bridge that formed on the lake.
There they found a bounty of caribou to feast on. But as the small pack grew to more than a dozen wolves in the following years, their food source — the caribou — all but disappeared. Now the wolves themselves are in danger, said Bumstead.
“We’ve been asking (the ministry) for a plan to remove the wolves from the island since last year,” Bumstead said. “And there still is no plan to remove the ones that don’t get moved to Isle Royale.”
By Liam Casey