Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

The wolves of fate: Media coverage of the 2018 Isle Royale 'genetic rescue'

Eric Freedman's picture
Freedman, Eric
Neuzil, Mark
Killion, Alexander
Category of presentation: 
Scholarly papers

Isle Royale is one of the most remote U.S. national parks, and its main draws are wilderness and wildlife, including beaver, otters, moose, martens and – for the moment – few wolves. In a controversial move in 2018, the National Park Service released four wolves from the mainland on the island, the first time the agency has intervened in a designated wilderness area to manipulate a predator-prey relationship (wolves feed on the burgeoning moose population). Wolves and moose are charismatic megafauna whose fate on Isle Royale has attracted widespread public interest and media attention. Supporters call the NPS plan a “genetic rescue”; skeptics say nature should be allowed to take its course. From the time the NPS released its Record of Decision announcing its controversial new wolf management plan, it has provided detailed information to the media while prohibiting, for espoused scientific and logistical reasons, a physical media presence on the mainland during captures and on Isle Royale during the releases. This paper uses content analysis and interviews to study how the U.S. and Canadian press covered the translocation decision and early animal releases from June through November 2018 and to examine NPS media strategy and tactics.