The National Park Service announced earlier this month that a five-year-old female wolf was found dead near Grand Portage, Minnesota with no apparent wounds. According to the CBC, biologists solved the mystery of the animal’s death when they retrieved a small pellet from inside the wolf. Evidently, the canine was killed by an air gun in what is being called a “fluke” shot. The small pellet ended a remarkable journey across the frozen water from where the wolf was born in Isle Royale National Park.

The wolf, nicknamed “Isabelle” by Isle Royale researchers, was considered a loner among the island’s small wolf population. Park officials said that she took the first opportunity to leave when frigid temperatures created an icy path to the mainland across Lake Superior. The trip took her across more than 20 miles of ice.

Biologists believe the first wolves came to Isle Royale in a similar fashion many decades ago. In recent years, these ice bridges have become a rare occurrence. However, this year’s near-record ice coverage provided an exit for Isabella, whio experts assume was looking for a mate when she ventured towards the mainland.

The Star Tribune reported that Isabella met her demise near on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, where wolves have been a pressing problem for years. Park officials said it was likely that someone attempted to scare off the wolf by firing an air gun at it. The pellet squeezed through the wolf’s ribs and managed to hit an artery.

The Grand Portage tribe forbids the killing of wolves on their land but residents can protect themselves or their property if they are threatened. There are currently around 2,200 wolves in the state of Minnesota, a population that state biologists consider stable. Across the lake in Isle Royale, however, park officials say that the island’s wolf population may soon become extinct. With only about eight wolves, it is probable that the pack will become inbred or die out completely.

Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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