ISLE ROYALE, Mich. — There’s not much that stumps researchers involved in the world’s longest-running predator/prey study on Michigan’s remote Isle Royale, but scientists made a first-time find recently when they examined a moose skeleton.
The bull moose was wearing a radio collar when he died in early May, and research teams on the island only recently were able to retrieve the collar and study the big animal’s bones.
“It appeared to have died of malnutrition, but there was an interesting twist when we looked closely at his skull,” researchers said this weekend on the study’s Facebook page. “Although the bull moose was old, he did not show any of the skeletal pathologies that we often see in old moose that perish from malnutrition, like arthritis, osteoporosis, and periodontal disease.”
Isle Royale is an archipelago that sits in Lake Superior. It can be reached by boat or sea plane. For 62 years, it’s been a wilderness classroom for the study of wolves and moose by researchers from Michigan Technological University.
At last count from the 2019 MTU study, there were more than 2,000 moose on the island. There are also believed to be 15 wolves, seven females and eight males. These include the island’s last native-born female and 14 new wolves that have been trapped and brought to the island from Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, mainland Ontario, Canada, and Michipicoten Island in northeastern Lake Superior, Ontario, Canada. The new wolves are part of the National Park Service’s plan to bring more big predators to the island to help control the rising moose population, which is overbrowsing areas of the island’s wilderness.
New counts of wolves and moose are expected soon in an MTU annual study.
Researchers have been on the island this year studying both the wolf and the moose populations. In the case of this dead bull moose, his body was found sprawled on the ground, laying on its right side. “Wolves did not consume any part of the carcass,” officials noted.
When they looked closely at the moose’s skull, they saw a thick piece of wood had became firmly stuck across his upper palate. They noted it was the “first time we’ve recorded this at Isle Royale.”
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