Winter Study

The Setting

Isle Royale is a remote, wilderness island located in Lake Superior. The island is inhabited by a population of wolves and moose. Isle Royale is also the site of the world’s longest continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world. Every winter, we spend 7 weeks at Isle Royale observing the lives of these wolves and moose. Rolf began working on the wolf-moose project in the early 1970s. I began working on the project in the early 1990s, and I record our adventures and discoveries here in Notes from the Field. Every three to four days, a new entry will be posted here with all the latest from Isle Royale.

Much of what we learn about Isle Royale’s wolves and moose is learned while looking out the windows of the “Flagship,” a small plane with room for a pilot and one observer. Don is the project’s pilot. He has been flying with the wolf-moose project for more than 30 years. His piloting skills are unparalleled and critical to our success. This winter, 2015, is the 57th year of Winter Study.

Otter Tracks                                                                 17 Feb – Don flew to the east end of Isle Royale to retrieve our two-member ground crew, who had been based at the Daisy Farm cabin for the past two weeks. By afternoon, the snow had begun to fly. 18 Feb – Wind, sun,...
On February 15th, we observed this group of three wolves.  This is the first time this winter that we observed any indication that the Isle Royale wolf population was comprised of more than just a couple of lone wolves. 11 Feb – Five inches of snow over night. Wind all day. 12 Feb – We squeezed a...
  Lone wolf observed near Little Todd Harbor on February 9th.                           5 Feb – Don and I flew and counted moose. One eye is programmed with a search image for moose and the other for anything that might indicate the presence of wolves. There was lots of moose, no sign of wolves....
20 Jan – We arrived to Ely, MN last night. Due to an inexplicable administrative delay, we started a week later than we should have. Now we just wait for opportune weather that will allow passage to Isle Royale. We waited and waited and waited and waited and waited.  Five days passed. And then we...
            19 Jan – Ten months ago, the last time we observed the wolves closely, there were nine wolves living in two groups. West Pack was raising three pups. The Chippewa Harbor Group (CHG) included an aging alpha female and her two adult offspring – a son and daughter. They hadn’t been able...