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Wolverines granted Endangered Species Act protections in the lower 48 states

Wolverine walks across a fallen tree trunk
Nazzu/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Wolverine walks across a fallen tree trunk. Stock photo.

After 10 years of consideration, wolverines in the contiguous U.S. have been listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Following a court-mandated deadline this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed wolverines as a “threatened” species. Conservation groups have been calling for that protection since the early 2000s.

Mike Garrity is with Alliance for the Wild Rockies, one of the groups that’s been involved in wolverine litigation.

"And so now we have to get on with trying to recover them to eventually remove wolverines from the Endangered Species Act, because that's the whole purpose. And the best way to do that is to ensure they have plentiful habitat," Garrity says.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the population of wolverines in the lower 48 to be around 300 animals, the majority of which reside in Montana. The agency says a warming climate is reducing snowpack, making it harder for wolverines to den. Habitat loss and fragmentation were also cited as a reason to protect them.

However, the protection still allows for trapping of other animals in wolverine habitats. That worries Garrity.

"You don't want to have trapping in big game winter range where wolverine are, because wolverine are going to go after any type of carrion, including what trappers use," he says.

In a statement to MTPR, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said it disagrees with the decision and believes the population has not declined enough to warrant federal listing. Trapping of wolverines has been banned in the state since 2012.

the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now begin the process of developing a wolverine recovery plan and identifying critical habitat for conservation. The federal agency may also consider the possibility of reintroducing the carnivores to Colorado.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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