Wolf pups are roaming Isle Royale National Park for the first time in at least five years.
The park has been working to rebuild the wolf population after researchers found only two wolves in 2015.
“There was a lot of concern at that point that the wolves were not able to reproduce and that the top predator in the ecosystem would be gone from the land scape. That would be bad for the entire ecosystem,” said Isle Royale National Park Public Information Officer Liz Valencia.
In 2018 and 2019, the park brought in 19 wolves to island.
Researchers believe one of the wolves was pregnant when she was brought to the island and gave birth to at least two pups in the spring of 2019.
They were caught on a trail camera in the park.
Other evidence suggests more wolves were born in the spring of this year.
Researchers don’t know the exact number.
Valencia said this is an early sign that the project to boost the wolf population is working.
“That is a really good indicator of the project proceeding as we want it to. What they really need to have is the wolves need to form groups, form family groups and packs eventually. Then those packs need to produce pups. This is steps along the way to what they might term success in the project,” said Valencia.
At its peak, the wolf population has been estimated to be 50. That was in 1980. Valencia said researchers believe about half that is the ideal population size to support the park’s ecosystem.
“At Isle Royale the wolf is the apex predator and that effects everything that happens in the ecosystem in Isle Royale. Otherwise the moose population gets too big. The beaver population gets too large and that effects all the vegetation and there’s just this cascading effect,” said Valencia.