Protecting Wolverines with UAVs

Episode title photo of Nikki Heim and Alex Taylor in the field by Dan Rafla.

There are few mammals who are as outwardly tough and intimidating as Gulo gulo, the wolverine. These solitary individuals are considered a species of special concern federally and threatened in some jurisdictions like Ontario and are notoriously difficult to monitor or track for scientific purposes.

But modern technology is changing that. The combined use of digital photography and videography with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, is creating opportunities to track and hone in on the specific areas that wolverines may be using as a home base. With that knowledge, researchers and managers are able to create land-use recommendations that protect the much-needed space of wolverines, and ultimately help individuals, as well as the entire species, thrive.

A recent project undertaken by ecologist and wolverine researcher Nikki Heim with UAV professional Alex Taylor utilized this method in the spring of this year. A quick disclosure: The Fur-Bearers did provide partial funding for this project. You can read more here. Nikki and Alex joined Defender Radio to explain how the convergence of their skills is offering new hope for protecting wolverines, the limits and importance of ethical use of UAVs, and what comes next in their project.

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