Wolverine: Ice-age survivor
Dec 14, 2010
Dec 14 - Wolverines, a rare forest predator, are judged by USFWS as "warranted but precluded" from protection under the Endangered Species Act. To survive climate change, they need more. We are redoubling our efforts to track their existence, protect and connect as much habitat for wolverines as we can, and push for full protections.
Can new recognition help wolverines, faced with the ravages of a changing climate? Photo by Jannik Schou
"They are smaller than I. Their lifespan is considerably shorter. Yet whenever they do, they do undauntedly. They live life as fiercely and relentlessly as it has ever been lived. If wolverines have a strategy it's this: Go hard, and high and steep and never back down. Not even from the biggest grizzly and least of all from the mountain." - Doug Chadwick, author of The Wolverine Way
This month the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided that wolverines warrant protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, they've also determined that listing the wolverine though warranted is "precluded": those protections will be withheld indefinitely due to the backlog of other species awaiting official action.
That's not enough for wolverines.
Conservation Northwest is one of the groups that pushed the agency to recognize that healthy populations in Canada are not sufficient stand-ins for animals suffering south of the border in the lower 48, where only about 500 are thought to remain.
Wolverines find ideal habitat in the remote, rugged, and snowy North Cascades, and they have persisted here for decades. Since 2005, federal researchers have tracked seven wolverines in the Washington range. Other sightings have been reported from Mount Baker to Mount Adams.
Protection under the Endangered Species Act could help the wolverine survive a future of a warming climate, shrinking snowpacks, and increasingly fragmented habitat, but only if the agency also changes its "warranted but precluded" assessment. Conservation Northwest is redoubling our efforts to protect and connect wolverine habitat, track their existence, and push for full listing of the wolverine as endangered species.
According to Dave Werntz, science and conservation director of Conservation Northwest, "If things stay the same, wolverines will lose up to 60 percent of their habitat by the end of the century. That would be a challenge for any species."
"Wolverines are emerging as a far more sensitive and more important indicator of global warming than wildlife managers were aware of before," says Doug Chadwick, journalist and author of The Wolverine Way. "If you want to take this a step farther, you might even be justified in thinking of Gulo gulo as the land-based equivalent of the better-known polar bear."