The oldest gray wolf at Isle Royale National Park has been killed — apparently by newcomers to the Lake Superior island chain, officials said Friday.
The 12-year-old male was one of two survivors that remained when officials decided to relocate wolves from the U.S. and Canadian mainland to rebuild the dwindling population.
His body was found in October. A necropsy showed it had been attacked by fellow wolves, park officials said in a statement.
The fate of the other island-born wolf, a 10-year-old female, is unknown.
“She is the final native wolf, never radio-collared, and searching for her will be a priority” for biologists during their annual winter study at the park, said Rolf Peterson, a research professor at Michigan Technological University.
Another female — one of the animals taken to Isle Royale beginning in fall 2018 — also died in recent months from wounds inflicted by one or more wolves.
“These events are not uncommon as wolves defend and establish their territories and social hierarchy,” the park statement said.
The current population includes eight males and seven females. Researchers monitoring the other wolves' radio collars say they are feeding, traveling and sleeping near each other in various combinations, although none of the groups yet meet the scientific definition of a pack.