Wondering about the wandering wolverines of the west

We all love wolverines – but how many of them are there in Canada? Do they travel outside the protected areas they inhabit, like Kootney National Park? How much of an impact are we having on their life cycles? And is their future secure?

These are some of the questions that biologist Dr. Tony Clevenger is hoping to find answers to with his study on the elusive predators.

The Invermere Valley Echo interviewed Dr. Clevenger via email, who noted the difficulties of the task he is facing.

“The challenges to the project are that we are studying a wide-ranging, rare-occurring species that is difficult to detect because of the large home range sizes and extremely low density populations,” Dr. Clevenger told the Valley Echo. “That was on top of the fact that wolverines typically occupy the most remote and rugged habitats in the Canadian Rockies, areas that are difficult to access in summer and particularly in winter.”

The research is being conducted largely through the use of hair traps – barbs that harmlessly pluck bits of fur from passersby in the wild and provide a variety of measurable data.

Interestingly, Dr. Clevenger’s research is being funded primarily by private non-profit societies and the US Fish and Wildlife Service – not the governments of BC or Canada.

What the future will hold for wolverines is highly unknown – not only is little research done on the vital predators, but their habitat is under constant threat from logging, and oil and gas exploration.

“Our work is designed to identify key habitat corridors for movement and gene flow at a transboundary level so that land management agencies can manage areas for wolverine conservation,” Dr. Clevenger said.

But it is not noted in the otherwise well-written Valley Echo article that wolverines can still be trapped across British Columbia and Alberta – despite their contentious positioning as a candidate for at-risk or endangered status.

A lot of patience will be necessary in protecting wolverines, just as it is in our work to protect the other fur-bearing animals of Canada from cruel traps. And we expect that Dr. Clevenger’s study, when completed, will be one of the many that show we must protect our wild neighbours and their homes.

Work like our growing Make Fur History campaign is only possible with the support of monthly donors. Please consider become a monthly donor – for as little as $5 a month – and help us create a Canada that is truly fur-free.

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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