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It was at Yellowstone National Park's Hellroaring Canyon Overlook in 1972 that researchers from both Minnesota and states surrounding the national park discussed reintroducing wolves to the area.

Wolves had been wiped out of the area by the 1920s as the result of overhunting and a lack of government protection.

Greater Yellowstone was designated a recovery area and the population flourished after their reintroduction.

Researchers and photographers from Minnesota recently showed 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS how they have tracked and monitored the wolves of Yellowstone since their reintroduction in the early 1990s.

Now, more than 20 years later, the National Park Service hopes to have similar success at Isle Royale National Park, off Minnesota's North Shore.

Decision on Isle Royale Wolves Based on Experience in Yellowstone


Success in Yellowstone...

The dawn of each day sheds light on all that is spectacular about Yellowstone National Park. Natural wonders and amazing animals are all easy to see from the side, or even the middle, of the road.

However, the gray wolf is more wary and more than 4 million tourists from around the world visit Yellowstone each year to try and catch a glimpse of the gray wolf.

There was a time when visitors couldn't see wolves in Yellowstone. When President Teddy Roosevelt created the world's first national park in 1872, there were no protections for wildlife.

Wolves were loathed, seen as unwanted predators, and eliminated from the park as well as western states. It would be decades before scientists recognized this as a mistake. Eliminating wolves had disrupted the ecology of Yellowstone.

In 1972, biologist Dave Mech, Ph.D., of St. Paul, stood with other researchers and the Assistant Secretary of the Interior at Hellroaring Canyon Overlook and envisioned wolves living in the valley below. A year later, the northern rocky mountain wolf was listed as endangered and Greater Yellowstone was designated a recovery area.

In 1995, Mech and Nancy Gibson, co-founder of the International Wolf Center in Ely, got the green light to make two trips to Canada to capture wolves and reinstate them in Yellowstone.

Since then, the wolf population has flourished and remains stable.

Learn more about Yellowstone National Park here.

...as a Model for Isle Royale

More than 20 years after the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone, the National Park Service hopes to have the same success at Isle Royale off Minnesota's North Shore.

Currently, there are only two, non-breeding wolves on Isle Royale. Officials said natural recovery is unlikely. Meanwhile, there are more than 2,000 moose on Isle Royale.

"They are eating themselves out of house and home," Gibson said.

The park service plans to release 20 to 30 wolves on the island in the next three years, beginning in fall 2018.

However, some are reluctant to implement this reintroduction plan.

Some believe humans should not have a hand in nature's process and that reintroduction processes affect the natural balance.

Learn more about Isle Royale National Park here.

Courtesy of Rolf Peterson, Ph.D., with Michigan Tech University, this video shows bull moose sparring on Isle Royale. It's estimated there are 2,000 moose on Isle Royale. The population is exploding because there are only two, non-breeding wolves left on the island.
This video was taken by filmmaker and photographer George Desort. Desort participated in The Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study during a two-week stay in Feb. 2009. View other videos Desort produced here.

Expert Input

During the course of his investigation, KSTP Reporter Kevin Doran spoke with many experts. Here are a few of those interviews:


Dave Mech, Ph.D., of St. Paul, is considered the father of modern day wolf biology.

He is a senior research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Mech helped bring wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. It really all began back in 1972 when Mech met with members of the Nixon administration in Yellowstone National Park.

In this video, Mech tells that story.
Doug Smith, Ph.D., is the leader of the Yellowstone wolf restoration project.

Smith also studied wolves in northern Minnesota and on Isle Royale.

He has an interesting perspective on what researchers have learned in Yellowstone and on the debate over whether humans should be sticking their noses into nature's business by bringing wolves to Isle Royale.
Heidi Pinkerton is a wildlife photographer from Babbitt, Minnesota, but her heart lives in Yellowstone, to which she returns every year. Pinkerton knows the wolves and their stories.

When new wolves are introduced to Isle Royale National Park, Pinkerton will visit and record their stories, too.

Pinkerton is also an expert at taking photos of the northern lights.
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