Sad news out of the Isle Royale National Park, way up in Michigan, where scientists say there's only one female gray wolf left in the nine that still roam a chain of islands in western Lake Superior. It's the lowest population ever recorded there, in 54 years.
There were 24 wolves — roughly their long-term average number — as recently as 2009.
"The wolves are at grave risk of extinction," said Michigan Tech University wildlife biologist John Vucetich.
Humans probably aren't (directly) to blame for this one. Isle Royale National Park is one of the least-visited in the U.S., reportedly the only known place where wolves (for now) live beside moose, without bears. You need a boat or seaplane to get there. No hunting.
Reported reasons for the near-extinction:
A shortage of females has cut the birth rate, while breakdown of several packs boosted inbreeding and weakened the gene pool. Other troubles include disease and starvation from a drop-off of moose, the wolves' primary food source.
The question now is, what to do? Should humans intervene by bringing in wolves from the mainland, or let nature take its course? The wolf researchers prefer the latter, but say wolves should still be brought in to keep the moose population (about 750) under control.
There's more about the Isle Royale wolves via educational videos from Michigan Tech.