Update (August 2022)

Of the 19 wolves that were translocated to Isle Royale between October 2018 and September 2019, one wolf left the island across an ice bridge (3F), three wolves were known to be alive as of March 2022 (7M, 12M, 19M), nine are known to have died (4F, 5F, 11F, 18F, 20F, 8M, 6M, 10M, and one as-yet-unidentified wolf), and the fate of the remaining seven translocated wolves is unknown (1F, 14F, 15F, 9M, 13M, 17M, 16M). Note that the wolf assigned the translocation ID number 2F is not included in the aforementioned account because that wolf died on the mainland before it could be released.
Read more here.

Update (February 2021)

A very sad story, yet what scientists are calling an “amazing journey.” Two years ago, in October, a 4 year old female wolf, that “showed signs of having pups” traveled across an ice bridge during a polar vortex to leave her imprisonment on the island and reunite with her family. As it turns out she continues to travel back and forth from Canada, where the ice bridge ended, to her capture area, no doubt searching for her mate and long lost pups. She was called F003, but we called her Freedom Wolf. Thanks to this brilliant scheme of “restocking” Isle Royale with wolves, this animal’s life has become hell. More about her escape can be found below in timeline of events, February, 2019.

We will continue to keep this page updated, stay tuned.

The oldest gray wolf at Isle Royale National Park has been killed — apparently by newcomers to the Lake Superior island chain, officials said Friday.

“Necropsy revealed that M183 had also been killed by another wolf or wolves.”

The 12-year-old male was one of two survivors that remained when officials decided to relocate wolves from the U.S. and Canadian mainland to rebuild the dwindling population. His body was found in October. A necropsy showed it had been attacked by fellow wolves.

The fate of the other island-born wolf, a 10-year-old female, is unknown.

To date:

The relocated U.S. mainland wolves, not moose hunters, and generally smaller than the Canadian wolves moved to Isle Royale have suffered greatly. And although they were considered healthy at the times they were moved to Isle Royale, four died on the island and one prior to release. The circumstances of their deaths have all been different. One Minnesota male died of pneumonia shortly after being moved in fall 2018. The body of another male, from Ontario, was retrieved from a bog in April; it was too decomposed to determine a cause of death. In September, two recently relocated females died; one from Michigan had an infection and wound from the leg trap used in her capture. The second, from Minnesota, died from severe trauma after an attack by another wolf or wolves. (The fifth wolf, captured in Minnesota, intended for relocation in 2018, died before its move because of “capture stress.”) Add to this the poor old resident wolf who certainly died a brutal death.

We have been against this from the start, many of you agreed, far more did not—and thanks to those who commented in favor of a proposal to add wolves to Isle Royale, the suffering continues. But hey, the moose population will be kept in check, even though there are less “criminal” ways to achieve that goal.

This male wolf, caught in Minnesota, was released on Isle Royale and found dead weeks later.

Timeline of wolf translocations to Isle Royale beginning in 2018:

On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, four wolves were “successfully captured” from different pack territories on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in northeastern Minnesota. Two of the wolves captured (trapped) were young wolves that did not meet the age threshold of the project protocol and were released where they were captured. The two adult gray wolves taken that day, a 4-year old female and a 5-year old male, were brought to Isle Royale and released. Both wolves received medical examinations by wildlife veterinarians from the NPS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and University of Minnesota, prior to transport.

On Thursday, September 27, 2018, another female wolf was captured and on initial inspection by on-site wildlife biologists, deemed fit for translocation. Per protocol, the wolf was sedated and transported to the holding facility for further medical examination. In the holding facility its condition deteriorated and she died. The wolf was transported to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab for necropsy and diagnostic evaluation.

On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, a female wolf was transported by the NPS boat BEAVER from Grand Portage, Minnesota, and released in the park. On Thursday, October 4, another female wolf was flown on the US Fish and Wildlife Service Kodiak airplane to the island and carried by park staff over a hiking trail to the release site. This brings the total number of wolves relocated since Sept. 24, 2018, to four at this time.

The wolf released on Tuesday, October 2, 2018, weighed approximately 70 pounds and showed signs of having had pups in the past, and was approximately 4 or 5 years old. Once on the island, the wolf waited in the crate for less than an hour before leaving her crate. The wolf released on Thursday (an approximately 2 year old female wolf weighing 51 pounds) remained in the transport crate until the morning before silently slipping away, obviously terrified.

Of sixteen different wolves that were captured on the Grand Portage Chippewa reservation, seven were collared. Four of the seven collared wolves captured on the Grand Portage Reservation were transported to Isle Royale. The four wolves were examined by wildlife veterinarians, documented, tagged and fitted with tracking collars. They were deemed generally healthy, between the ages of two and five, and not from the same pack.

The National Park Service confirmed on November 13, 2018 that one of the wolves relocated to the park that fall died. Location data for the male wolf indicated a mortality signal, despite the fact that the collar was not functioning properly. The wolf’s collar malfunctioned from the onset of the project where it was sending a mortality signal even while game cameras provided photos of it and the collar tracked movements from the release site to the middle of the island and back.

From NPS: “The collar indicated his movements appeared to be confined to a small location and the collar was in mortality mode. Because of the earlier malfunctions, park staff needed to determine whether the signal was truly a mortality signal. Isle Royale staff and partners from Grand Portage Band of Chippewa traveled to the island to find the wolf. They located it through telemetry and converged on the carcass to do a site investigation and recover it for necropsy. There was no obvious cause of death and no indication of wolf on wolf mortality. The wolf was transported to the US Geological Services wildlife health lab in Madison, Wisconsin, for necropsy.”

February 2019 a female wolf departed Isle Royale on an ice bridge during a polar vortex! She was trying to return home. This was beyond sad. The animal fleeing the island was F003, a female wolf translocated to the park in October 2018. F003, whom I call “Freedom Wolf,” departed the island on January 31, 2019 in bitter cold and hostile weather conditions, headed north and then west to a location just north of the Pigeon River, on the border between Canada and northeastern Minnesota, United States. This was the female wolf who “showed signs of having pups in the past.”

The poor animal was trying to return to her family. The temperature on the day she departed the island was between -6° and -2° during the day and between -21° and -10° at night; this does not include the windchill.

In March 2019, seven Canadian wolves, 3 females and 4 males, were translocated to Isle Royale National Park.

In late March, the NPS discovered a translocated wolf’s GPS collar transmitting a mortality mode signal. The wolf (W006M) was a black-coated male translocated to the park from Ontario, Canada, in late February.

Isle Royale wolf population update May/2019

September 2019 Isle Royale National Park resumed it’s wolf translocation project the first week of September. Park staff and partners moved a wolf from Michigan’s mainland to Isle Royale on Friday, September 6. The 70 lb. male wolf, between 2 -3 years old, was captured in the Upper Peninsula and transported by amphibious aircraft to the island and released. This marked the beginning of the second year of a three-to five-year effort to establish a population of 20-30 wolves in the isolated island park.

The Isle Royale fall wolf translocation project concluded on September 13 after “successfully” moving three wolves from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the park. The new wolves, two males and one female, bolstered the total island wolf population to 17 at that time, which included nine males and eight females.

How many more will survive a translocation in the future only time will tell.

Photo by Jim-Brandenburg/Minden Pictures/National Geographic Creative Commons

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Feature image by Marcia Straub