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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Feds propose to list wolverine as ‘threatened’

Author: Guest Writer/Monday, February 4, 2013/Categories: Uncategorized

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took an important step Friday, Feb. 1, toward listing the North American Wolverine as a species worthy of protection under the Endangered Species Act.


USFWS/Steve Kroschel photo

The proposal could have ramifications for western states with high, snow-covered mountain ranges where wolverines live. Colorado, in particular, already has taken initial steps toward a reintroduction of 30-40 wolverines in order to help reestablish the species. That state effort has been on hold for a couple of years, however, as the federal agency debated the merits of an ESA listing.

Friday’s action was not an actual listing of the wolverine, but a proposal to protect the animal as a “threatened” species, with several questions and caveats. The only human activity contemplated for regulation/prohibition under the listing would be killing of wolverines. Other human activities that occur in high-alpine wolverine habitat — snowmobiling, backcountry skiing, logging — do not appear to threaten the animal and wouldn’t be affected.

The proposal leaves open the idea of critical habitat designation for the wolverine. It’s unclear whether setting aside land would help the animals, because climate change is the chief threat to their habitat and survival. Wolverines are also highly nomadic, moving great distances between islands of cold, inhospitable high country.

In recent years, biologists from the Greater Yellowstone Wolverine program documented a male wolverine, M56, that traveled some 500 miles from northwestern Wyoming to northern Colorado, where it remained for months.

On Feb. 4 the Fish and Wildlife Service opened a three-month comment period, during which it hopes to hear from citizens, stakeholders and scientists about the proposal. A final determination is expected in one year, and will be “based on the best available science,” according to the FWS.

– Bob Ward

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