That question seems to have lobo likers all in a tizzy of late.
It started with the anual 2 week wolf observation that happens every winter that has been ongoing for decades on an island in the great lakes that is also a National Park and Wilderness (kind of) area. I'd been following the Scientist at Work Blog at the NYT by the wolf researcher John Vucetich which I'd urge anyone who enjoys a very interesting read by a scientist to go read. I'm big on scat and tracks and bones found in the woods myself so the reading was absorbing for me.
Without fact checking myself the story roughly goes, way out in one of the great lakes is an island, moose swam over about a hundred years ago and wolves fifty years ago. The wolves have been eating the moose ever since. I'm not sure of the numbers but I believe the first wolves were a pair. The island is a long way from land and the wolves only crossed that vast expanse of ice due to a cold winter and chance.
Well now we're down to one maybe pregnant female wolf from a high of a few dozen, there were signs that she was bred during the yearly arial observation, but it's feared that narrowing the genes down to one female again might have serious inbreeding issues. Strum the deliverance banjo now.
The she wolf also might well die.
Isle Royale has provided a nice clean place to study wolves for a long time. There are no other predators or prey to complicate things. No bear, mountain lion, no white tail or elk. Of course having only one predator and one prey doesn't really give one a clear picture of what the two animals relationship might be like in the real world. One would hope that sort of understanding would have tempered all research, but I doubt it. I'm not sure how it goes in other parts of the scientific world but wolf biologists seem to easily slip over the line into species advocacy.
Advocacy brings with it additional baggage, mainly laissez faire views of wildlife management. If you're promoting one of the fastest reproducing predators with an ability to live just about everywhere just letting nature take it's course becomes very attractive.
But then the wolf population at Isle Royale might end and moose would turn that paradise of a formerly copper mined and heavily logged wilderness area into a barren and dry leafless plain as happens inevitably to any place without wolves. Never mind the fifty years when the moose had the place to themselves.
Adding a female wolf or ten would be, shudder, wildlife management.
I wish scientists had access to the web and could read a definition of extinction.