Trapped on an Island With Wolves, the Only Way Out for These Caribou Was Up

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Traditionally, ice bridges would have fashioned virtually each winter, giving each wolves and caribou freedom to maneuver round, mentioned Gordon Eason, a retired biologist who labored with the ministry for 3 many years. However due to international warming, he mentioned, these bridges now type solely sometimes, trapping the caribou on islands, along with their predators.

“It’s like being confined in a jail cell with somebody who’s making an attempt to homicide you,” Mr. Eason mentioned.

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A crew of pilots, veterinarians, analysis scientists and animal handlers moved eight cows and one bull over the weekend. The caribou have been captured with a gun web, restrained and sedated earlier than being transported.

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Ontario Ministry of Pure Assets and Forestry

Caribou-transplant operations usually are not unheard-of on Lake Superior. Within the early 1980s, after a lighthouse keeper seen the tracks of a lone bull who had crossed an ice bridge to Michipicoten Island, Mr. Eason and his colleagues hauled seven females (and an additional male) to the island to hitch him, within the hopes of making a brand new group.

It labored — no less than for just a few many years.

Dr. Rodgers and a colleague, Brent Patterson, a authorities analysis scientist and adjunct professor at Trent College in Ontario, mentioned they have been optimistic concerning the destiny of Michipicoten Island’s caribou. However different scientists feared they’d be killed by wolves within the subsequent few weeks. Serge Couturier, a biologist who has been finding out caribou for 34 years, mentioned it was “possible” that wolves would “take the previous few caribou earlier than the tip of the snow interval.”

Mr. Eason, who led the unique caribou relocation to Michipicoten Island, is amongst these calling for the ministry to do extra to avoid wasting Lake Superior’s caribou. “Now we have to grow to be that agent of immigration as a substitute of simply pure immigration occurring,” he mentioned.

“I assume that’s one of many prices of managing threatened species or endangered species,” he added. “You must intervene in a part of the cycle that isn’t functioning anymore.”

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Some consultants have been involved that wolves would possibly discover their solution to the Slate Islands, too.

Credit score
Ontario Ministry of Pure Assets and Forestry

The relocation comes after months of complaints from individuals who dwell close by on Lake Superior, who’ve lengthy voiced considerations concerning the island’s caribou and at one level even thought-about culling the wolves themselves.

“We wished to maintain the caribou on Michipicoten; it’s an unimaginable habitat, they usually’ve thrived there,” mentioned Leo Lepiano, the lands and assets coordinator for the Michipicoten First Nation, a gaggle representing the native group. Now, some persons are calling for the ministry to maneuver the remaining Michipicoten caribou to different islands as “backup” populations.

“Because it stands now, the survival of the Lake Superior caribou might be solely depending on the animals on the Slate Islands,” Mr. Lepiano, Mr. Eason and others wrote in a letter despatched to the ministry on Monday. Mr. Lepiano mentioned he was involved one other ice bridge might type from the mainland to the Slate Islands.

“It’s doable that wolves might make it over to the Slate Islands, and it could solely take them a few weeks to eat by way of the caribou,” he mentioned. “It’s form of silly to place all of your eggs in a single basket.”

Correction: January 19, 2018

An earlier model of this text referred incorrectly to Gordon Eason, a retired biologist. He doesn’t maintain a Ph.D. and subsequently shouldn’t be Dr. Eason.

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