Female Isle Royale wolves numbers higher

Feb. 23, 2013 at 9:30 PM

HOUGHTON, Mich., Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The male-female balance among the population of wolves on Michigan's Isle Royale is not lopsided as previously thought, researchers say.

New DNA analysis of the wolves' scat indicates about half of the nine wolves that make up the island's population are female, rather than just one or two as previously thought, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Saturday.

The new information tends to rule out gender imbalance as the driving force behind the wolves' declining numbers on the island, the newspaper said.

National Park Service officials say the new findings gives them more time to decide whether to take the unprecedented step of introducing one or more new wolves to the island to renew the population's genetic makeup. They remain concerned, however, about the wolves' diminishing population.

"We are not seeing the courtship behavior that we would expect," Rolf Peterson, a biologist at Michigan Technical University, told the Star Tribune. "That indicates they are avoiding breeding with close relatives."

Dave Mech, a wolf biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, noted, however, some of the female wolves were born after 2011. Wolves usually don't start mating until they are at least 2 years old.

"I've been telling people not to panic," Mech said.

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