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Wild Christmas for wolverines

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Jan 07, 2013 05:05 PM |
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Scott Fitkin, wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Service got an early present on Christmas Eve. Approaching the sprung box trap made of massive logs in the Twisp River watershed probably made him feel like a kid sneaking up on his pile of presents under the tree, because he knew that, inside, there was some kind of animal...

Wild Christmas for wolverines

An early Christmas present for biologists: a wolverine in a live-trap set as part of a research project. This 26-pound male is nicknamed Dasher. Photos: WDFW

Scott Fitkin, wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Service got an early present on Christmas Eve. Approaching the sprung box trap made of massive logs in the Twisp River watershed probably made him feel like a kid sneaking up on his pile of presents under the tree, because he knew that, inside, there was some kind of animal.

Peeking into the trap's heavy lid revealed the perfect present--a wolverine staring (and probably snarling) back at him!

Appropriately nicknamed Dasher, this wolverine is new to the research project for which Scott is a biologist. He is a healthy young male, about 26 pounds, and now has his own ear tags, radio collar, and a free meal of road kill deer. He also has some new friends at the WDFW and USFS who are pretty excited to track his movements over the next while to gain a better understanding of our region's elusive and fascinating wolverine population.

Dasher marks the 11th wolverine captured--seven females, four males--in the North Cascades Ecosystem, which spans the Canadian border.  The project, headed by Keith Aubry of the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station, seeks to understand the ecology of wolverines in the rugged Cascades and monitor their populations. Last year, they discovered two natal dens, which Scott would probably call a late Christmas present! Enjoy the tales from earlier study years with these two blogs: Do wolverines need a passport and Wolverine week or delve into the science with the 2012 report or August 2012 update.

Over the next few years, the project is expected to transition from a telemetry study to the development of a robust, non-intrusive remote camera station method to monitor individuals and population status using individual chest markings and DNA from hair snags. We use a similar method as part of our own wildlife monitoring. You can see the wolverines and other critters we have captured with remote camera on the Conservation Northwest flickr page.

This discovery is more than just a fun photo-op and a few data points. It's also an opportunity to inspire those who love the Cascades to protect its amazing critters, and another step in protecting the core and connected habitats these animals need to survive into the future.

The more we know about how wildlife hunt, den, and travel from the Cascades to the Rockies and north to BC, the better our focus becomes for protecting the most biologically important lands.

Dasher's discovery is a Christmas present for the future!

 

Dasher the wolverine
Dasher the wolverine
Dasher's blazes help ID him on remote camera
Dasher's blazes help ID him on remote camera
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wolverine

Posted by Barbara Griffith at Jan 07, 2013 10:02 PM
You have to wonder what this wolverine thought when he woke up and had something around his neck and several earrings. O, well he will get used to it after a while. I hope he can steer clear of any trigger happy hunter in his travels. He has no idea how important he is.

A bit worrisome ... Dasher lunching on a canine's skull?

Posted by Kuzco2u at Jan 28, 2013 05:59 PM
Cool info about the study program. How about a bit of explanation on that picture of Dasher in a wooden box with ... what appears to be ... a canine skull for lunch. That's a bit worrisome ...

A deer!

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Jan 28, 2013 06:00 PM
Hi kuzco2u-- Sorry, I missed your comment. Nope, it's an ungulate. The state transportation folks give roadkill to the study. :)

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