Wolverine, © Ken Curtis

Great News For Wolverines!

Kylie Paul, Rockies and Plain Representative


(c)Anna Yu/istockphoto

Wolverines are enigmatic, wide-ranging members of the weasel family (think otters, mink, and marten) that exist in high-altitude ‘islands’ of mountain ranges in the West.  Wolverines mostly disappeared from the landscape in the 19th and 20th centuries in part due to human activities like trapping and poisoning, and they are slowly recolonizing their former territory in the northern Cascades and Rocky Mountains.

Defenders and our colleagues have been fighting for nearly two decades to federally protect wolverines in the lower 48 states, where climate change threatens their future. We filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in 2000 requesting protection for the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and took legal action in 2005 and 2008 when the agency did not move forward to protect the species. Then in 2010, FWS determined that wolverines did in fact warrant ESA protections, but the agency was precluded from taking further action due to higher priorities. Thankfully, on February 1, 2013, FWS finally proposed to protect wolverines in the contiguous U.S. as a ‘threatened’ species under the ESA!

The wolverine population in the lower 48 has long been a conservation concern for Defenders of Wildlife for many reasons:

  • Wolverines are few in number. Biologists estimate there are fewer than 300 wolverines in the contiguous United States, and wolverines have one of the lowest successful reproduction rates known for mammals.
  • Wolverines need snow. Female wolverines need deep snow that lasts through spring for dens in which they raise their young, but researchers predict wolverines in the lower 48 could lose two-thirds of their snow-covered habitat by the end of this century due to climate change.
  • Wolverines need connections to other wolverines. The contiguous U.S. population of wolverines is small and fragmented, and is therefore vulnerable to a reduction of suitable habitat. To give the species a chance of adapting to the warming climate in the lower 48, they need a well-connected, robust population, including wolverines reclaiming currently unoccupied habitat.
  • Some areas still allow wolverine trapping. Trapping of wolverines has been allowed in Montana, where up to five wolverines statewide could be trapped legally each year. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but trapping one reproducing female from a small mountain range could reduce the reproductive potential of that local population.

(c) Ken Curtis

Protecting wolverines under the ESA would benefit wolverines in many ways. A ‘threatened’ status prohibits killing or harming wolverines, so it will stop trapping of wolverines in Montana, giving them a better chance to expand into unoccupied habitat. It will help identify and designate habitat critical to long-term species survival. It requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a comprehensive recovery plan that discusses what specific actions need to be taken in order to restore the species. It brings public attention and hopefully public resources to wolverines – once folks get to know how impressive wolverines are, they’re that much more likely to help protect them!  It also brings to light the complex challenges of climate change that wolverines and other species face. Listing the wolverine should provide additional resources necessary for research and monitoring.

The USFWS has one year to decide whether to follow through and publish a final listing rule. They are holding a public comment period from February 4 to May 5, 2013, to give folks the opportunity to provide additional information on the proposal. Click here to review the proposal and submit a comment!

Here are some important points to mention:

  • Wolverines need deep snow that lasts through spring for dens in which the females raise their young, but wolverines in the lower 48 could lose two-thirds of their snow-covered habitat by the end of this century due to climate change!
  • Federal protection will help wolverines survive a warming world by removing threats such as trapping, giving them a better chance to expand into unoccupied habitat.
  • Federal protection will provide the resources and attention needed for research and monitoring to better understand threats and help sustain wolverines into the future.
  • To give the species a chance of adapting to the warming climate in the lower 48, they need a well-connected, robust population, including wolverines moving into quality former habitat that is currently vacant.  Wolverine reintroduction in high-alpine Colorado will help increase the chances of the species surviving in the lower 48 in a warming future.

Together we can speak up to make sure the wolverine gets the protection it deserves.

Categories: Success Stories, Wolverine

26 Responses to “Great News For Wolverines!”

  1. Jos Huizinga

    We need to protect these Beautiful animals. Just like we have to protect other predators. We do we humans always have to distroy everything just for some profit on land. Will we humans ever learn? Respect all live and learn to live in peace with all living things. Wolves, wolverines, beats, cougars etc. are beter wildlife managers than humans are.

    • Aunty Entropy

      Hooray! The San Francisco Zoo opens its new wolverine exhibit on July 19, 2014, with a male and female. Zoos generate mixed emotions, but in terms of helping threatened species, they’re very helpful.



  3. laura

    That’s great,so.many animals need our help..there just isn’t enough help for them..before they get abused or slaughtered..we are their voice.

  4. Julie Martenson

    Why would listing a species with such critical numbers even be up for debate. Given climate conditions and habitat loss: this may even be too late.

  5. Carolyn McEvoy

    Please spread the word—let’s do something good for these animals—they deserve a chance at life too. There are so many animals who are threatened as well, the wolf, the grey wolf— usually shot from helicopters–and polar bears. Please–let’s save these animals.

  6. Eda Hallinan

    Finally. What takes government agencies and legislators so long to act

  7. Ron Zamora

    These magnificent critters deserve protection ! Humans have been encroaching on their territory and they need room . Climate change is another factor; the mothers need snow to raise their young and this human made tragedy is giving them less time !

  8. David Walker

    Please help these guys. They may not be cuddly but they deserve to be protected

  9. mara Koorse

    Congratulations DOW for a victory long time coming! Prayers that you have faster success for our wolves! God. Bless!

  10. Jarrod

    The fact is, the wolverine is in ALOT of trouble. The climate changes alone, minus the low reproductive rates, and the devastation of the population by the trapping of them for the fur industry stand to significantly usher in a bleak outlook for they’re very survival. Much like the Panda, they are one of North Americas’ dying treasures, and play a vital role in the ecosystem. People always assume that numbers make all the difference but really it all comes down to the Yin and Yang Theory. It’s balance people! No matter what there true numbers they are necessary. Losing them in a small or big area disrupts the natural order of things in areas big and small. We reap what we so and this particular last couple of centuries, destruction for profit has been the name of the game. There’s nothing wrong with making a living at whatever your good at. But all that we’ve done, has been a stain on this earth, and you don’t need the book of revelations or an ancient Myian calander to show you the road we are headed down. Without getting to preachy I will say this. The wolverine is running out of time. Alot of warm and cold climate animals will not adapt in time to these climate changes and like it or not it is our fault. All of us. It isn’t just our government. It’s our entire industrialized, materialistic, Western Society mentalities that are to blame. We can’t change how we live over-night and maybe if we could, alot of progress could happen for earth. It could have time to heal itself. But at this rate, it can only do so much. The first step to intervention is admitting there is a problem. We need sobriaty from our way of life, and the first step is enforcing acts like this. But don’t think that giving money or signing petitions will ever be enough. We need to adapt, or parish with the wolverine along with all the other species we’ve destroyed, all in the name of progress! We have truly devolved, and replaced wisdom with technology and plush living. How far have we truly come?

  11. Jarrod

    Please disregard my poor grammer in the comment above. And as far as the Wolverine goes, what I meant to say is much like the issues that have plagued the Panda in the cloud forests of China, the wolverine shares these issues right outside of our backyards in the Northern United States and Canada. We need to take issue with any and all animals that will suffer from the climate changes in addition to all the other problems we cause for them. It’s too much for them to handle without such laws.

  12. Alana gavin

    We must protect these beautiful creatures from trappers and allow them to adapt

  13. RICK

    To really protect all animal and the environment humans have to stop breeding. Government legislation can not provide undisturbed land if humans keep over populating the earth. Remember humans need nature to exist. Nature needs humans for absolutely nothing. There is no Planet “B” Look up “Worldometers” if you dare and see the insanity of human procreation and it’s effects on this one of a kind planet. Support “IdleNoMore”

    • RICK

      Sad that the animal with the greatest potential “humans” that we cause every issue that exists with the earth. “Idle No More” 🙂

  14. Ralo Boco


    Even if the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classified Wolverine as Least Concern on its Red List, if we compared with one century ago the population of that specie has dramatically decreased like the most major part of species living on our Earth.

    With more than 7 Billion, maybe only Human specie sees his population growing, but here we can speak of an overpopulation.

    We cannot forget that every year more than 60 000 species are disappearing for ever due to human behaviors.

    We, as responsible, we cannot accept that any longer.

    And on that I do join Rick comment (and others) here above.

  15. Diane Summerville

    Save the wildlife for every living creature has its right to live.

  16. Rhonda

    If someone knows of a video of a wolverine running away from you, or just playing, I would like to see it. Thank you

  17. Bruce Deckelman

    Protect these awesome creatures from disappearing forever ! Trappers can trap 5 a year and there is only 300 estimated to be alive in lower 48 ? I do NOT Understand WHY this wasn’t done decades ago.

  18. RICK


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