Michigan’s Isle Royale is Down to Three Wolves: Blame it on Inbreeding

Wildlife ecologists from Michigan Tech University, said that there are only three wolves left in Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park, which could lead to disaster for the group’s survival.

John Vucetich, associate professor of wildlife ecology at Michigan Technological University, conducted the annual study of the park’s animals together with a research professor at Michigan Tech. He said that there is now a good chance that it is too late to conduct genetic rescue.

The wolf population is in trouble at national park. The three left is a mated pair and their 9-month old pup, but the appearance of the pup is unhealthy. It has a hunched posture and deformed tails, this abnormalities may lead to early death.

Since 2009, the wolves have been rapidly declining in numbers, from 24 to only three in six years. With such a small population, the wolves are vulnerable to inbreeding, which can lead to serious health and bone deformities. Inbred pups have a very low survival rate

Ecologists say, inbreeding is to blame, but maybe an indirect culprit of its population decrease is the climate change. Researchers believe it would be nearly impossible to recover the population without introducing new genetic material into the group.

Recently they observed two other wolves that made their way onto the island via an ice bridge from the U.S.-Canadian mainland, but after less than a week the pair left. It’s possible the two pairs of wolves didn’t even notice each other. This means that they were not interested in mating with outside wolves.

Since it is possible for other wolves to enter the park, resident adults must be interested in mating with outside partners in order to recover naturally.

The decreasing wolf population associates to a fast growing moose population on the island. Because without many predators, moose are thriving, and if the unbalance of predator-prey worsens, it could trigger severe and permanent damage to the ecosystem on Isle Royale.

Unfortunately, humans are largely to blame for the critical degeneration of wolf across the United States due hunting. In Alaska there are 7,000-11,200 gray wolves left, in the Great Lakes region there are only 3,700, and a population of 1,675 in the Northern Rockies, according to Defenders of Wildlife.

Source: http://news.discovery.com/animals/only-three-wolves-remain-on-michigans-isle-royale-150421.htm





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