Scientists say the gray wolves of Isle Royale National Park are dangerously close to extinction.
Biologists with Michigan Tech University say they counted only nine wolves on the Lake Superior island this winter during a seven week trip to count the wolves and moose. The population is down from 16 just a year ago. It's the lowest number since scientists began monitoring the park's wolves and moose a half century ago.
"Underlying all of it is probably genetic inbreeding, but it also may involve low food supply and new disease exposure and just the random bad luck of having almost no females in the population," said Biologist Rolf Peterson.
Wolves migrated to Isle Royale from the mainland on an ice bridge around 1950. Peterson and fellow biologist John Vucetich say their presence is essential to prevent moose from over browsing.
Park Superintendent Phyllis Green says no decision has been made whether to bring in more wolves.