Doug's Blog

Rants from a renegade naturalist

Save the the Wolverine: Montana's Polar Bear

These huge weasels are on my mind as this is the season they undulate over the spring snow pack looking to get laid. Bushwhack out of Many Glacier if you want to see one; there's only about 250 left south of Canada.

People who have spent a great deal of time with grizzly bears in the wild sometimes think they glimpse a flash of recognition, a sentience, in the eye of a wild bear, that some understanding passes between them. I have been guilty of such impressions—or illusions. For those of us who have been lucky enough to catch sight of a wolverine close up, the thought of any human brotherhood with that totally feral face never comes up. This is a creature too wild; the gigantic Mustelidae lives far beyond our wildest anthropomorphic dream.

May 6 was the deadline for comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for listing the wolverine in the lower 48 under the ESA. I posted of course, though I am deeply skeptical of this agency's cognitive flexibility--pissing in the wind awaiting the caddis hatch. The "little bear" is totally dependent on lingering spring snow, which will shrink back each year from the fickle ferocity of global warming.

The most credible scientific data on wolverines documents an absolute habitat dependence on “persistent spring snow habitat.” A study of 562 wolverine denning sites in Fennoscandia (like Sibelius caught with his pants down) and North America demonstrates that wolverines denned in areas of spring snow 100 percent of the time—all of the time. Persistent spring snow habitat has been defined as the snow that lingers from April 24 to May 15, a period that encompasses the end of the wolverine’s denning period. This data comes from satellite images and telemetry sites. During summers, 95 percent of telemetry locations of wolverines during summertime were in areas of persistent snow and 86 percent of winter locations also fell in these habitats. This study (Copeland, 2010) records satellite photographs from 2000 to 2006. The proxy of persistent spring snow for critical wolverine habitat is as close to a perfect wildlife management tool that we have for any large mammal in the Continental United States.

The only thing anyone, including feds, can do for the wolverine is stop killing them. Most wolverines die in traps, especially traps set for wolves. Since MTFWP refuses to budge on any restriction of trapping whatsoever--it's like freedom, god & guns--it's time for everyday folk to get involved. Consider putting a ban on trapping on the ballot. Let's see how everyone feels.

Download Doug's wolverine comments to the USFWS (wolverine_FWS.docx)

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