For most people, a trip to Michigan's great outdoors normally involves an easy weekend and some savory barbecues with friends and family. But for others, it means participating in the lengthiest prey and predator study in history.
In the Isle Royale National Park, dozens of eager outdoor enthusiasts, in addition to volunteers and experts hit the swampy backcountry in hopes of discovering moose bones. Why you may ask? Well, it all dates back to 1958, when researchers began studying the 45-mile island to understand the relationship between wolves and moose.
This prey and predator duo are some of the island's most notable occupants, and by uncovering the remains of the gentle giants, scientists have hoped to gain a deeper understanding into the life cycles of these two wild animals - from birth to the very last day. But what makes this study different from others is that it actively invites the public to participate.
Moosewatch Expedition is one of the clearest avenues to get involved. According to their website, the program offers "an incredible opportunity... to be a part of the wolf-moose research project." For those interested, the Moosewatch Expeditions opens eager explorers to an immersive, 10-day trek throughout the Lake Superior island, as they learn the ecosystem history of this pristine and relatively untouched park. In fact, by the program's standards, Isle Royale is one of "the most remote and least-visited national park[s] in the lower 48 United States." Of course, the difficult journey to even arrive at the park could be a contributing factor.
And while the relationship between predator and prey may have a bittersweet note, the island's wolves and moose keep the park in a sort of homeostatic state. According to National Geographic, wolves make sure that the population of moose doesn't rise to the point of over-grazing and deterioration of the island's greenery. But on the flip side, the wolf population struggled due to changes in climate. Thus, the park's authority authorized a gradual reintroduction of wolves just three years ago.
Interested to learn more? Be sure to check out the Moosewatch Expiditions website and find out when the next trek is taking place.