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Isle Royale winter study celebrates 60 years

Researchers have released the annual winter study report detailing updates on the ecology of Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. For the third year in a row, the Isle Royale wolf population remains a mere two, while the moose population continues to stay above the historic average. Without the pressure of predation, the expanding moose population will have a greater impact on the island's forest ecology. The wolves are closely related -- both as siblings and as father-daughter -- and the inbreeding within the island's isolated wolf population is what contributed to their demise. The wolves' numbers started plummeting in 2009, declining by 88 percent from 24 to two wolves for that period; historical levels of wolves typically varied between 18 and 27. One meager hope for new wolves formed briefly in early February. For almost a week, an ice bridge connected the island to the Ontario mainland. However, the ice conditions were rough, the bridge did not last long, and the researchers found no evidence of wolves crossing over. With fewer ice bridges and warmer winters, the chances of wolves recovering naturally is slim to none.

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