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Winning with wolverines

Posted by kmcgurn at Apr 18, 2013 03:45 PM |

Conservation Northwest’s remote camera volunteers recently have had significant successes in documenting new wolverines in Washington State along with our agency partners. This is exciting for our team, and good for the future of our state's rare weasel. As wolverine are considered for threatened status under the federal Endangered Species Act, the more we know about their populations in the Cascades, the better case we can make for their overall recovery.

Winning with wolverines

Our remote cameras snapped this photo of "Peg" in Chiwaukum. We're waiting on genetic analysis to fit another photo from the area into the list of 16 wolverines our team and other researchers have discovered in the Cascades!

Conservation Northwest’s remote camera volunteers recently have had significant successes in documenting new wolverines in Washington State along with our agency partners. This is exciting for our team, and good for the future of our state's rare weasel.

As wolverine are considered for threatened status under the federal Endangered Species Act, the more we know about their populations in the Cascades, the better case we can make for their overall recovery.

Wolverines need additional protections.  Take action online!

The first bit of exciting information came in April 2012 when our remote camera documented a new wolverine in the Chiwaukum Mountains near Stevens Pass, the first such documentation of a wolverine south of Highway 2 in over 20 years. This wolverine was later identified as a previously unknown female and named "Peg."

In August of 2012, our remote cameras near Bootjack Mountain in central Washington captured images of a wolverine who was thought to be yet another previously unknown individual. The first photos themselves didn't have enough of a view to allow for a positive ID of a new individual. So hair snagging devices were installed at the station to gather DNA evidence as well.

After genetic analysis, the next great piece of news came: the individual at the Bootjack Mountain site was indeed a new male, dubbed somewhat prosaically, “Bootjack Mountain Male.”

But wait, there’s more! During that same time frame another potentially new wolverine was detected at the Chiwaukum site, and our monitoring stations got photos and hair samples. Hair samples were sent off to the lab last month, and we eagerly await the genetic results.

The wrap-up for Conservation Northwest remote cameras:  during the last year, we have detected 3 different wolverines at the Chiwaukum and Bootjack Mountain camera stations, including 1 female called “Peg, 1 male (“Bootjack Mountain Male”), and 1 unknown (pending genetic results). Not bad!

Winning results from others

North Cascades National Park staff also snapped photos of a wolverine and retrieved hair samples from a  monitoring station near Sauk Mountain. This is the westernmost record from the Cascades since the “Acme” wolverine was road-killed in 1997. (More evidence for wildlife bridges?) This individual turned out to be a previously known study animal eventually named “Special K”.

This gentleman was well-known because he would not be sedated by researchers despite multiple doses when captured last year. As a result, he was widely agreed to be one tough cookie. Researchers had to let him go without collaring him, but were able to get a hair sample from him which resulted in a complete genetic profile (i.e., an individual ID).

Obviously, “Special K” has lived up to his fierce reputation and been a far ranging traveler within the North Cascades, providing yet another example of how hardy wolverine can be!

More recently, Forest Service researchers have also obtained photos of a wolverine and hair sample near Meadow Lake on the west side of the Cascades. This turned out to be another new male named the “Meadow Lake Male.”

Vital stats

The endgame: So far during the course of the combined efforts by federal researchers and Conservation Northwest, 16 wolverines in northern Washington and southern B.C. have been identified from DNA!

Out of that total,13 individuals were identified in the North Cascade Wolverine Study telemetry results, 2 (possibly 3) from the Conservation Northwest Chiwaukum/Bootjack cameras, and 1 at Meadow Lake.

For Conservation Northwest citizen monitoring volunteers, 3 out of 16 documented wolverines ain’t a bad start! Big thanks to them for helping all of us better understand where wolverines are using the Cascades and how we can better protect them.

[Take action to better protect wolverines] [Find a wolverine! Adopt a monitoring team]

 

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