National Park Service urged to immediately restore predator/prey balance
ISLE ROYALE, MI — Forty-seven of the nation’s top conservation scientists are urging the Director of the National Park Service to immediately augment the dwindling gray wolf population in Isle Royale National Park to avoid an explosion of moose numbers that could ironically threaten that species and many others as well.
In a recent letter sent to National Parks Service Director Jon Jarvis, the scientists point out that “wolves play an important role in ecosystems through their predatory activities. Their direct impact on prey numbers and behavior creates a series of indirect effects that reverberate through an ecosystem affecting multiple species, some of which seem too ecologically and taxonomically distant to be affected.” Study after study has shown that when top-down management by carnivores is dismantled, ecosystems can degenerate and even collapse.
As of March 2015, there were only three highly inbred wolves remaining on the 210-square-mile island park in the northern extreme of Lake Superior, while the number of moose was 1,250 and climbing. Without predators, the moose population is expected to continue rising until most of the forest food supply that the species depends upon for survival is gone.This would result in a severe population crash of both moose and other forest-dependent creatures on the island. Boosting the wolf population is expected to add stability to the Isle Royale ecosystem and increase overall biological diversity on the island.
The only way wolves can naturally re-colonize Isle Royale is by traveling across a 20-mile ice bridge when Lake Superior freezes between the island and mainland Minnesota and Ontario, Canada. The warming climate is now reducing the frequency of such ice bridges, decreasing the opportunities for mainland wolves to migrate to the island, thus making that avenue too infrequent to be a viable alternative for rewilding the isolated wolf population.
“Rewilding is simply the process of restoring the natural biological composition of ecosystems,” said wildlife biologist Dave Parsons of The Rewilding Institute. “Allowing rewilding to occur naturally through the protection of habitats and migration pathways is the preferred method, but human disturbances, like those that are contributing to climate change, often preclude that natural option,” he said.
“As the species that caused the problem, we have a moral obligation fix it,” said GregCostello, Executive Director for Wildlands Network. “This is a rare situation when boosting wolf population numbers has no potential conflicts with human activities. The National Park Service has a mission to maintain naturalness in national parks, and in this case should use the most expeditious process to restore wolf predation to the natural ecosystem of Isle Royale,” he added.
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