To reintroduce wolverines into New Mexico, and ensure that all trapping is banned across the West of this rare and important wildlife species. To educate people about another important predator that contributes to healthy lands across the West.
The wolverine is a rare and beautiful alpine species. The wolverine (Gulo gulo) can be found in wild, rugged and often snowy country. Wolverines can cover great distances in search of carrion, or foods alive or dead. Wolverines are capable of hunting and killing animals five times their size. Yet they tend to scavenge on dead carcasses. They have been known to chase away grizzlies when eating a carcass. They tend to climb anything and everything from trees, avalanche chutes, summits. They are also capable of covering large distances in search of mating or food. The wolverine is extremely shy around humans, losing most of their range in the early 1900’s, the result of heavy trapping, indiscriminate killing from poison-baiting and naturally persecution from people.
Today, wolverines have a stronghold in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana where a recent trapping ban was put in place.
We know that in 1864, wolverines existed in all the northern mountains of New Mexico. IN 1985, there was a published report of a wolverine sighting in the tundra habitat on Latir Peak in the Sangre De Cristos! Others have claimed sightings in road kills and near Fence Lake, but these are not confirmed.
Wolverines can't beat the heat
Climate change threatens animal, officials say
Written by Karl Puckett
Tribune Staff Writer
The wolverine, once trapped and poisoned to near extinction in the West, is making a comeback, but now climate change is threatening the solitary fur bearer, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agency on Friday proposed designating the cold- and snow-loving gulo gulo — Latin for glutton — as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, citing diminished habitat caused by warming temperatures.
If OK’d, the listing would bring an end to intentional wolverine trapping in Montana.
A 90-day public comment period begins Monday.
The largest member of the weasel family, the wolverine is known for its vice-like bite and extraordinary power and will savagely defend a kill from wolves or grizzly bears, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
But warming temperatures could do in its preferred high-elevation habitat, said Shawn Sartorius, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in Helena who is leading the agency’s recovery efforts.
“Wolverines are an unusual case in that their population appears to be currently expanding,” Sartorius said. “However, we have significant information that projects significant impacts to wolverine habitat from climate warming.”
Listing the wolverine gives it a fighting chance in the lower 48, said attorney Timothy Preso of Bozeman-based Earthjustice, who represented conservation groups that led a long legal campaign seeking protections.
“The most immediate need is to stop the threats to the species that we can control, including direct killing of wolverines through trapping,” Preso said.
The agency said it proceeded with the listing as part of a court-approved work plan resolving lawsuits.
In the lower 48, an estimated 250 to 300 wolverines occupy Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and a small portion of Oregon. The largest population, between 100 and 175 animals, is in Montana with the highest density, about 40, in Glacier National Park, but it’s also found in isolated mountain ranges such as the Little Belt Mountains.
Based on climate-change modeling, about 30 percent of wolverine habitat will be diminished over the next 20 to 30 years and 60 percent over the next 70 to 80 years, threatening populations, Sartorius said.
“The glaciers melting is another symptom of the same problem,” Sartorius said. “Wolverines aren’t dependent on glaciers themselves, but they live in places (where) glaciers are.”
Scientists also have documented disappearing glaciers in Glacier Park due to warming temperatures.
“Hopefully this will give us an opportunity to focus some energy and resources on this animal that’s been needed for a long time,” said Jeff Copeland, who studied wolverines in central Idaho, western Wyoming and northwest Montana for the Idaho Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service.
By the early 1900s, the wolverine was largely extinct in the lower 48, done in by predator trapping and poisoning programs, but it’s recolonized historic habitat in the last 50 or 60 years.
The resurgence of the wolverine has been a success story, said Copeland, who’s now executive director of the Wolverine Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to raising awareness about the animal.
At the same time, it remains vulnerable because it needs high elevation sub-alpine habitat with persistent snow pack lasting into mid-May, Copeland said.
“This is an animal that’s tied to a very specific niche,” Copeland said.
Scientists once believed wolverines could survive across a range of ecosystems because they were found in such a broad area, from the arctic to forests in western lower 48, Copeland said. But they’ve since discovered that the wolverine, in fact, lives only in a narrow elevation band, whether that’s in Montana or the Brooks Range in Alaska.
In light of future loss of habitat due to warming temperatures, it’s critical that steps be taken now to aid population expansion “and hope that populations can hang on through those changes,” Sartorius said.
The agency also proposed a new rule that would allow reintroduction of wolverine into historical range in Colorado, if the state approves.
Hunting of wolverine is allowed in Montana, but that would end if it’s listed, Sartorius said.
Ron Aasheim, a spokesman with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the current trapping quota is five a season with three to four typically trapped a year.
“Our primary concern is to maintain our authority and ability to manage Montana’s wildlife,” Aasheim said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also is considering banning the incidental take of wolverine in the course of legal trapping of other species, such as wolves, and that concerns the state, Aasheim said. FWP, he says, will make a strong case that the state be allowed to continue to manage wildlife “including the ability to trap other species like wolves that sometimes share habitat with wolverine.”
The wolverine population in Montana, Aasheim noted, is relatively healthy and the state’s management “is not the problem.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials hope to work with states on methods to minimize incidental trapping, Sartorius said. “If we can do that successfully we hope to remove that prohibition from the final rule,” he said.
Snowmobiling, skiing and timber harvesting are not significant threats to wolverine and restrictions aren’t proposed, the FWS said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to List Wolverines as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act
Contact: Steve Segin, 303-236-4578,
Proposed Rule would not affect recreation, timber harvest or other activities if species is listed as threatened
DENVER--The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today, in response to a court-ordered deadline, that it is seeking information from the scientific community and the public on a proposal to protect the North American wolverine as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is also seeking comment on two proposed special rules designed to facilitate management and recovery of the species should it receive protection.
An estimated 250 to 300 wolverines now occur in the lower 48 states, where the species has rebounded after broad-scale predator trapping and poisoning programs led to its near extinction in the early 1900s. This was in part due to the states protecting the species from unregulated trapping.
Extensive climate modeling indicates that the wolverine’s snowpack habitat will be greatly reduced and fragmented in the coming years due to climate warming, thereby threatening the species with extinction. Wolverines are dependent on areas in high mountains, near the tree-line, where conditions are cold year-round and snow cover persists well into the month of May.
The Service does not consider most activities occurring within the high elevation habitat of the wolverine, including snowmobiling and backcountry skiing, and land management activities like timber harvesting and infrastructure development, to constitute significant threats to the wolverine. As a result, the Service is proposing a special rule under Section 4(d) of the ESA that, should the species be listed, would allow these types of activities to continue.
“This proposal would give us the flexibility to tailor the protections for the wolverine provided by the ESA to only those things that are necessary,” said Noreen Walsh, Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. “Scientific evidence suggests that a warming climate will greatly reduce the wolverine’s snowpack habitat. We look forward to hearing from our state and local partners and members of the public and scientific community on these proposals as we work to ensure the continued recovery of the species.”
Under the proposed 4(d) rule, take of wolverines associated with hunting and trapping would be prohibited if the species is listed. The Service is seeking input on the appropriateness of prohibiting incidental take of wolverine in the course of legal trapping activities directed at other species.
In support of ongoing federal and state agencies to protect the wolverine from extinction, the Service is simultaneously proposing a special rule under Section 10(j) of the ESA to facilitate potential reintroduction of the species its historical range in Colorado. The reintroduction effort, which is still under consideration, would be led by the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife.
Currently, wolverines occur within the North Cascades Range in Washington and the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and a small portion of Oregon (Wallowa Range). Populations once existed in the Sierra Nevada of California and the southern Rocky Mountains in the states of Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Currently, one individual male wolverine is known to inhabit the Sierra Nevada and one male wolverine resides in the southern Rocky Mountains. Both are recent migrants to these areas.
Most wolverine habitat in the contiguous U.S. – more than 90 percent – is located on federally-owned land, with the remainder being state, private or tribally owned.
If the proposed listing rule is finalized, the Service will add the wolverine to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The listing would protect the wolverine as a threatened species in the contiguous (or lower 48) states as a distinct population segment (DPS) under the ESA. A DPS is a portion of a vertebrate species that is geographically discrete from the rest of its kind and also is significant to its survival.
The Service committed to publishing the proposed listing for the North American wolverine in Fiscal Year 2013 as part of the Service’s efforts to implement a court-approved work plan that resolves a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s ESA listing duties. The intent of the agreement is to significantly reduce litigation and allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of the ESA's protections.
The Service will open a 90-day comment period beginning February 4, 2013, to allow the public and stakeholders an opportunity to provide information or comments regarding the proposed listing and 4(d) rule and the proposed 10(j) rule. A draft Recovery Outline will also be available for comments. During that time, the agency will also seek peer review of the proposed listing and proposed rules from the scientific community. Comments will be accepted until May 6, 2013.
Last year, the President directed that any future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens. If the listing is finalized, any potential critical habitat designation will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and will strive, to the extent permitted by law, to avoid unnecessary burdens and costs on states, tribes, localities and the private sector.
At this time, the Service finds that critical habitat is not determinable, as the agency needs additional time to assess the potential impact of a critical habitat designation and to identify specific areas that may be appropriate for critical habitat designation. The Service seeks comments on the reasons we should or should not designate critical habitat for the wolverine, and what specific areas might be considered for designation.
For more information about wolverine conservation, copies of the proposals, and details on public meetings and hearings, visit the Service’s web site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolverine/. Copies of the Federal Register notices will also be available online or by contacting the Montana Field Office at 406-449-5225.
The Endangered Species Act provides an important safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife, and plants. This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.
For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/.