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Are Isle Royale's Wolves Chasing Extinction?

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Science  24 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6135, pp. 919-921
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6135.919

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For 40 years without fail, a group of ecologists from Michigan Technological University have listened for high-pitched yips that signal a new generation of pups joining the storied wolf population on Isle Royale. For the first time last summer, the group heard no yips and failed to spot pups during the official aerial population count in January 2013. The lack of reproduction means that 2012 will likely go down as the beginning of the end of Isle Royale's wolves. One school of thought has maintained that this chance natural experiment should run its course even if that means extinction, followed by a transfusion of fresh wolves to control the moose population on the rugged island. But some researchers argue that the study's value is so great and the current wolves so integral to the island that they warrant a "genetic rescue," by importing other wild wolves soon.

  • * Christine Mlot is a Wisconsin-based writer.

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