Good news, bad news for U.P. moose

Michigan State Roundup

Published May 1, 2007  | May 2007 issue

As a matter of supply-demand, it's funny how closely the natural world can mirror an economic one. In late January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed the gray wolf from the federal threatened and endangered species list in western Great Lakes states, including Michigan, thanks to sustained populations.

That's good news for wolves, of course; not good news if you happen to be a moose, or so it seems. A moose population census on Isle Royale National Park found their numbers had dropped almost 15 percent from just the previous year, according to an Associated Press report. As recently as 2002, the chain of islands in Lake Superior was home to more than 1,000 moose.

Ironically, wolves apparently are not the main culprit for the moose dive. Rather, the moose decline is the result of repeated hot summers and tick infestations. In combination, it's believed, the two factors managed to weaken moose enough for them to become prey to wolves. But it turns out that wolves on Isle Royale may be in even more danger than the moose-their numbers declined from 30 to 21 last year-because the moose herd is getting thinned too quickly. Fox numbers have declined as well, because wolves are leaving less behind for scavengers after a kill.

Ronald A. Wirtz