The gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf, has been the prevailing predator of Isle Royale National Park since its arrival to the island in the late 1940's.
The gray wolf gets its name from the thick, gray fur coat covering its body. While most wolves are gray, their coats can range in color from reddish to solid black. On average, adult wolves are five to six feet in length, with females weighing 50-85 pounds and males weighing 70-110 pounds. A wolf will hunt small prey such as snowshoe hare and beaver, however, they often live in small packs of four to eight members and work together hunting larger prey like moose.
It is largely accepted that wolves arrived on Isle Royale by crossing an ice bridge that formed between the island and the Canadian mainland during the winter of 1948. Since this initial population of island wolves, the population has varied from 50 animals in 1980 to a low of two animals since 2016. Wolf population variation is driven by the availability of its primary food source of older moose and calves, and the spread of canine diseases to the island. Furthermore, genetic inbreeding has led to physical deformities and has, at times, resulted in low productivity and survival.
Wolf & Moose Population
The prey to predator relationship of Isle Royale's moose and wolves has a direct effect on both species' populations. Wolves help stabilize the moose herd by preying on the old, young, and ill, while strong moose numbers allow for stable winter hunting for the wolves. Check out the correlation between wolf and moose populations of Isle Royale since 1980.
Where Are The Wolves?
Isle Royale wolves can be found throughout the island, however they are afraid of people and will avoid human interaction. They are very elusive, but your best chance of seeing them would be along lakeshores, open areas, or hiking trails. As of 2018, there are only two wolves living on Isle Royale. This limits the likelihood of viewing the park's apex predator.
In the hierarchy of wolf packs, there is typically one dominant female who is allowed to breed with the dominant male, forming the alpha pair, or pack leaders. A female wolf can breed by the age of two. Breeding occurs in February and March with pups born in April and May. A typical litter consists of four to seven pups, which will remain in the den for their first six to eight weeks.
Having A Safe Wolf Experience
Wolves are often afraid of people and will leave an area when they hear or smell humans. Here are safe wolf experience guidelines:
Last updated: December 10, 2018