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      Study says Isle Royale wolves may die out within years

      Wolves at Isle Royale National Park

      Scientists released a report on the Isle Royale National Park's wolf population on Tuesday, and the numbers are showing a possibly grim future for the wolves.

      In 2013 scientists say that eight wolves were counted on the isle. The study says that since 2009 the wolf population has dropped 66 percent, from 24 wolves down to 8.

      According to the annual report, this past year shows an apparent lack of reproduction. Scientists have only observed two other years that showed no signs of wolf pups during the winter.

      In an article on Michigan Tech's website, MTU population biologist John Vucetich said that this is the first year since 1971 that there were no signs of pups being born during the entire year.

      "We failed to detect signs of courtship or mating in the Chippewa Harbor Pack in either of the past two winters," said Vucetich. "This winter we observed signs of courtship in the West-end Trio, but we cannot say if mating occurred. The lack of reproduction is not due to a shortage of females."

      The moose population on the isle showed an increase during the January 13 survey. A recent moose study says that 975 moose were counted on the isle, which is an increase from 400 moose counted in 2007. The number of calves is abundant as well, accounting for 21 percent of the moose population, according to the survey.

      MTU's article on the wolf population asked Vucetich why the wolf population is in decline with plenty of food and no lack of females.

      "It could be inbreeding, which can affect survival and reproduction," suggested Vucetich.

      Scientists say that wolves instinctually avoid breeding with close relatives. Researchers say that the last time genetic diversity entered the Isle Royale breeding population was back in 1997.

      According to a Michigan Tech article, the average life span of the wolves is less than five years, and if they continue not to breed, the population will soon be gone.