Wolf on Isle Royale

Alpha Male, photo by Rolf Peterson/Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale

The National Park Service has opened a formal public comment period that will close on August 29, 2015 regarding future management options for wolves in Isle Royale National Park. The wolf population has plummeted because of a lack of gene flow from the mainland and park management is considering an array of options. If you have commented before, do it again as anything preceding the current comment period is now considered informal input and won’t be considered further.

Moose have important effects on island vegetation, including forest cover, and wolves are the only moose predator on the island. The wolf population on Isle Royale is very low. With their long-term survival on the island in question, the moose population is likely to increase in the short term (5-10 years), which could result in impacts to vegetation and forest cover because of over-browsing.The six plan options they lay out in this PDF are:

  1. No-action alternative: Current management would continue; the park would not actively manage vegetation or the moose and wolf populations
  2. Introduce wolves once: Reestablish wolves on the island by bringing in new wolves one time to mimic a migration event; no moose management
  3. Maintain both species: Maintain populations of moose and wolves on the island, which could include wolf reintroduction or augmentation
  4. Introduce wolves once and reduce the moose population: Reestablish wolves on the island by bringing in new wolves one time; reduce moose density if/when the wolf population is no longer impacting the moose population and moose herbivory is having a demonstrated impact on park resources
  5. Reduce moose population: No wolf reintroduction or augmentation; reduce moose density if/when the wolf population is no longer impacting the moose population and moose herbivory is having a demonstrated impact on park resources
  6. Intensively manage the moose population: No wolf reintroduction or augmentation; intensively manage moose population to a low level; potential for direct vegetation restoration through seed gathering and planting on offshore islands

Click over for more and to comment.

The Wolf Moose Project on Isle Royale is the longest continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world. Rolf Peterson began leading the wolf moose project in the early 1970s, and remains a world authority on wolves and moose. About this photo he says:

It was a remote camera photo that I set up. It shows the alpha male in the Chippewa Harbor Pack in 2009, revisiting the remains of a moose the pack killed in the adjacent pond the previous autumn.  The wolves managed to yank the remains out of the pond the next summer and consume the rotting carcass.

You can view this photo background bigtacular and follow the Wolves & Moose of Isle Royale on Facebook for updates.

More wolves on Michigan in Pictures.

Isle Royale Wolf

The Urge, photo by isleroyalewolf.org

Last weekend the Freep reported that the delicate biosphere that characterized Isle Royale National Park is about to fall apart. The wolf count is down from nine last year to only three, and Michigan Tech ecologist John Vucetich says he wouldn’t be surprised if none remain next winter.

“What’s really important here is not the presence of wolves, per se,” Vucetich said. “But the wolves need to be able to perform their ecological function — predation. Predation has been essentially nil for the past four years now.”

That’s led to a 22% increase in the moose population for each of the past four years, he said, taking the island population from 500 to 1,200 moose. An individual moose consumes up to 40 pounds of vegetation a day.

“One of the most basic lessons we know in ecology, wherever creatures like moose live, you have to have a top predator,” he said. “If you don’t, the herbivore can cause a great deal of harm to the vegetation.”

… Vucetich and his colleague at Michigan Tech, Rolf Peterson, both support a “genetic rescue” of the island’s wolf population — bringing in wolves from elsewhere to bolster island wolves and help facilitate breeding. The U.S. Forest Service is studying the concept, but that process may take years. If the remaining wolf population doesn’t survive, and the Forest Service ultimately approves of the plan, it may mean creating a whole new pack on the island.

I think that this poses very interesting questions about our role in the ecosystems we seek to preserve. Are we to watch what happens and not interfere like a kid watching an ant farm or a Star Fleet team, or do we accept the responsibility of our decision to preserve and seek to maintain the natural balances and populations? As our climate changes, we will no doubt be called to make these decisions more and more frequently as flora and fauna lose the ability to survive in the places we have set aside for them.

This photo was the first in a series of 40 shared last fall in “Thinking Like an Island” from the Wolves & Moose of Isle Royale. They wrote:

THE URGE. Walk 40 miles in two days searching for a lover that may not even exist. Return home to parents and siblings the next day. The life of a dispersing wolf, unsatisfied.

It’s a great series featuring images by George Desort, Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich, and Brian Rajdl along with text by John Vucetich and Michael Paul Nelson. Click to see this photo bigger on Facebook and then use your left arrow to page through them.

Definitely visit isleroyalewolf.org for lots more about the predator/prey balance of one of Michigan’s most fascinating places.

Zodiacal Light by Shawn Malone

Zodiacal Light on Isle Royale, photo by Shawn Stockman Lightseeker/Lake Superior Photo

The Earth Science Picture of the Day is pretty much my favorite photo blog. Regarding the Zodiacal Light, Rudi Dobesberger and blog curator Jim Foster wrote:

Zodiacal light is now thought to be caused by dust particles scattering sunlight in the orbits of comets. In both hemispheres it’s best observed in late winter/early spring after sunset and late summer/early fall before sunrise. However, it can be detected before astronomical twilight (morning) or after astronomical twilight (evening) at other times of the year as well, providing that the sky is quite dark.

Head over to the EPOD for more and definitely subscribe!

The photo above is from Shawn’s recent journey to Isle Royale. Follow her at Lake Superior Photo on Facebook and view and purchase many more photos – including a gallery of Isle Royale pictures –  on her website.

Isabelle being chased by her assailant

Isabelle being chased by her assailant, photo by isleroyalewolf.org

A couple of weeks ago a reader sent me a link isleroyalewolf.org. The website documents the interactions of the island’s wolf & moose population as their decades long dance unfolds on this remote, wilderness island. Their overview explains:

Isle Royale has offered many discoveries… how wolves affect populations of their prey, how population health is affected by inbreeding and genetics, what moose teeth can tell us about long-term trends in air pollution, how ravens give wolves a reason to live in packs, why wolves don’t always eat all the food that they kill, and more. The wolves and moose of Isle Royale also frequently reveal intimate details of their daily life experiences and they have inspired numerous artistic expressions. If we pay attention, they all tell us something important about our relationship with nature. These insights and discoveries are all presented here for you.

Building on the graph above and to develop a deeper understanding, here is more on the history of wolves and moose on Isle Royale. Moose first came to Isle Royale in the early 20th century, and for fifty years, their numbers fluctuated with weather conditions and food abundance. Wolves first arrived in the late 1940s by crossing an ice bridge from Canada. The lives of Isle Royale moose would never be the same.

Every winter since 1958, a team of researchers has spent numerous weeks at Isle Royale observing the lives of these wolves and moose and reporting back. Now they offer a website with photos and detailed reports, a fascinating tale that I encourage you to follow. Today’s photo is from the edition I began with – It’s Complicated. A snapshot:

Isabelle’s signal was surprisingly close. By the time we saw her, she was running for her life, north along the beach of Rainbow Cove. She was being chased by Pip’s two companions. Pip was nowhere in sight. While those two wolves have been eating regularly, Isabelle may not have had a decent meal in weeks, perhaps longer. Isabelle’s half-mile lead was reduced to nothing in just a few minutes.

Definitely read on for photos and a gripping account of these wolves battling and follow the whole 2013 Winter Study as it unfolds (sign up for their email).

More wolves on Michigan in Pictures.

Moon Shadow  Self Portrait

Moon Shadow Self Portrait, photo by yooper1949.

We’ll stay outside and under the stars with this photo taken across from Pickerel Cove Campground in Isle Royale National Park. Carl writes that he was trying to photograph the bright stars filling the sky while keeping his shadow out of the shot. He finally decided to go with it (to great effect in my opinion).

Check it out bigger in his Under the Stars slideshow.

Minong Mine

Minong Mine, photo by nasunto.

Nina went to Isle Royale in September and has been posting accounts on her awesome blog Black Coffee at Sunrise. This photo of Minong Mine appears in Day Five, which features a detailed description of their encounter with a pack of wolves:

Since the vegetation along the narrow trail was dripping with dew and leaning inward, it wasn’t long before we were both soaking wet from hip to ankle. Ten minutes after leaving our campsite, the ground became marshy and we found ourselves walking a long stretch of protective plank bridge. Just before reaching the stream crossing, the trail curved to the right and Craig suddenly stopped in front of me, turned around and said very calmly, “Uh…a whole pack of wolves…”

His voice trailed off as he turned back around to face forward again. I thought he was trying to be funny since I couldn’t yet see what was around the corner. After inching forward another foot or so, he turned to me again and the look on his face was priceless. “I’m not kidding,” he said. “There are at least five wolves on the trail ahead of us.” The next few moments were the most surreal and exciting I’ve ever experienced.

Read on at her blog for the rest of the account or see them all in her Isle Royale section.

Be sure to check this out bigger or in her Isle Royale set (slideshow).

You can learn a little bit about Minong Mine and see a picture of a 6000 pound copper nugget right here.

Check out many more Isle Royale photos on Michigan in Pictures.

Mt. Franklin view

Mt. Franklin view, photo by yooper1949.

Mount Franklin was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. It’s along the Greenstone Ridge, about which Summit Post says:

The Greenstone Ridge forms the geologic backbone of one of America’s least visited National Parks…Isle Royale … The island is composed of a series of ridges that run the length of the island. In between these ridges are areas of swamp and muskeg. Sound inviting?

The Greenstone Ridge is the longest and highest of these ridges. It gets its name from the greenish stones that are commonly found along it. It runs the entire 45-mile length of the island and is anything but smooth. A few notable peaks along it include Mt. Franklin(1080’), Mt. Ojibway(1136’), Mt. Siskiwit(1205’), Ishpeming Point(1377’), and Mt. Desor(1394’). The ridge top is quite open in places, particularly along the northeast half of the ridge. The trail between Mt. Franklin and Ojibway is especially scenic.

Click to read more about this trail. The Isle Royale National Park site says that Greenstone Ridge forms the backbone of Isle Royale and is thought by many geologists to be a portion of the largest lava flow on earth.

This photo is part of Carl’s Isle Royale National Park set (slideshow), to which I am drawn back to again and again. You can also purchase many of them from Carl’s MackinacScenics site.

Rain on My Sunset

Rain on My Sunset, photo by yooper1949.

Take a trip to Isle Royale National Park with yooper1949 (slideshow) and be sure to check this beauty out bigger.

Isle Royale National Park is one of our state’s true treasures. You can see more photos from this beautiful Michigan island in the Isle Royale National park group. Two cool ways to explore the pics is through this group slideshow and the Isle Royale group Flickriver.

Hope you all have a happy weekend wherever you may be.

The Islands of Isle Royale

August 12, 2008

Little Dean Is.

Little Dean Is., photo by yooper1949

Wikipedia lists islands in Isle Royale National Park (but not this one):

  • Amygdaloid Island – has a ranger station
  • Barnum Island
  • Beaver Island – has a campground
  • Belle Isle – a small island just off the north shore of Isle Royale at the head of Belle Harbor. It is the site of a primitive campground and is visited every second day during the peak season by the island-circling ferry.
  • Caribou Island – has a campground
  • Grace Island – has a campground
  • Johns Island
  • Long Island
  • Menagerie Island – has a lighthouse
  • Mott Island – summer park headquarters
  • Passage Island – has a lighthouse and short trail
  • Raspberry Island – has a nature trail
  • Rock of Ages – has a lighthouse
  • Ryan Island – the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest freshwater lake in the world
  • Tookers Island – has a campground
  • Washington Island
  • Wright Island

Learn more from Isle Royale National Park (U.S. National Park Service) and check this out bigger (along with many more) in Carl’s spectacular Isle Royale Natonal Park slideshow.

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, in lifting fog - Isle Royale National Park

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, in lifting fog – Isle Royale National Park, photo by Mark S. Carlson

Mark writes:

This was one of my favorite photographs made during my last visit to the island in spring 2006. I’ve been to the wilderness isle many times and every time is special. It’s ruggedly beautiful, inspirational and one of the most exciting places in Michigan to make photographs if you appreciate pure nature.

You can see more from the island in Mark’s Isle Royale gallery, and more of Michigan in his other galleries and in his book Michigan, Simply Beautiful. Along with fellow photographer Mark also operates Great Lakes Photo Tours, providing personalized and in-depth instruction in nature photography in some of Michigan and the region’s most beautiful locations.

The entry for Rock Harbor Lighthouse at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light tells the history of this remote lighthouse and includes a number of historical photos. With the boom of mining on Isle Royale and the new lock at the Soo, a light at Rock Harbor was approved by Congress (for the outrageous sum of $5000). The light was completed in 1856 and:

The station’s rubble stone tower stood 16 feet 11 inches in diameter at the foundation, with its 49 foot 11 inch high walls tapering gently to a diameter of 14 feet 1 inch below the circular gallery. A set of spiral pine stairs supported by a central pine post wound within the tower from the first floor to a trap door in the gallery floor to provide access to the lamp. The lantern itself was fabricated of cast iron, and featured a domed copper roof. Centered within the lantern, a fixed white Fourth Order Fresnel lens sat at a focal plane of 70 feet above lake level, and cast its light 15 miles across the lake The attached rubble stone dwelling, stood 29 feet square and 20 feet 9 ½ inches high at the apex of the cedar shingled roof.


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