When wolves made trip to Isle Royale

To the Journal editor:

Many years ago someone in our Department of Natural Resources opined that the wolves on Isle Royale first found their way over ice to Isle Royale from the mainland in the winter of 1949-50.

I have no reason to doubt that some did cross that winter. Unfortunately, that fact has morphed into a myth. I say that because in recent years I have noticed that DNR personnel, and other writers have begun to postulate that 1949-50 is when wolves first crossed the ice to Isle Royale. That myth has metastasized into virtually all related stories written in recent times.

It isn’t true that 1949-50 was when wolves were first known to have crossed to Isle Royale.

Wolves were seen on Isle Royale before 1916. Major William R. Oates, Game Commissioner of the Public Domain Commission, State of Michigan, sent two trappers to Isle Royale in November of 1916 and they spent the entire winter of 1916-17 on Isle Royale. Major Oates sent those men to trap wolves and coyotes.

It was reported in the press in 1917 that “there are about 200 moose under state protection. Wolves and coyotes, which are reported to have increased in numbers alarmingly within the past three years, have preyed upon the moose herd and retarded its growth. A lean winter makes the animals all the more ravenous and bold.

“To protect the herd as well as deer that are on the island, the state game warden’s department determined to exterminate coyotes and wolves.”

Logic tells us that wolves must have had opportunities to find their way across the ice well before 1916.




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