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Latest survey shows Upper Peninsula wolf population holding steady


A recent survey from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shows the state’s wolf population has stabilized.

The latest data estimates about 630 wolves live in the Upper Peninsula. That’s a remarkable comeback from less than a dozen wolves thirty years ago.

Michigan DNR Wildlife Biologist Brian Roelle says it’s a sign the animal has reached its carrying capacity in the region.

“If you have a glass which represents your wildlife habitat or forest, you can only put so many marbles in that glass before they start spilling out,” he explains. “That’s basically how you can think of the UP. The UP is that glass and you can only fit so many wolves into the suitable wolf habitat.”

Wolves were once common in the U.S. but were largely wiped out because of over-trapping and poisoning.

They were placed on the endangered species list in the 1970s, and slowly made their way back to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In 1990, just 10 wolves roamed the UP. That number climbed steadily for 20 years, until the population started leveling out in the last decade.

Now, about 130 packs call the region home.

Roelle says that’s quite the comeback.

“To me, it’s rather a success story,” he says. “A large carnivore is now very stable in the state of Michigan and a part of the natural fauna.”

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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