Wolverine, © Anna Yu/iStock© Anna Yu/iStock

Wolverines in Lower-48 Denied Protection… Again

Wolverines in the Lower 48 have had a tough go of it in the quest to list them under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Conservation organizations started requesting protection for wolverines in 1994, and three times the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decided – despite mounting evidence to the contrary – that wolverines did not deserve to even be considered for listing. It wasn’t until 2013 that things finally looked hopeful: the FWS issued a formal proposal arguing that wolverines should be listed as “threatened” due to the threat of climate change impacting their habitat. But that basis for hope recently disappeared – and left conservation advocates wondering just how badly a species needs to be doing in order to get protection under the ESA?Wolverine, © Kalon Baughan

An internal FWS memo from the Denver regional office surfaced this summer, recommending that wolverines should not be listed because of uncertainties regarding the impacts of climate change. The final decision from the Director of FWS to deny listing on those grounds arrived a few weeks later on August 13, with FWS arguing that experts can’t predict with certainty the impacts climate change will have on wolverines. The problem? The agency’s own experts – field biologists who have worked for several years on the wolverine listing decision – had already given the opposite recommendation. They were entirely convinced by the best available science that wolverines deserved the protection of the ESA as a “threatened” species due to the threat of climate change but unfortunately, that point of view did not carry the day with the final agency decision.

And what could climate change mean for wolverines? With snow levels in the West expected to continue to decline over time, wolverines will find that the deep, persistent snowpack that they depend on for den sites is dwindling. This prediction is based on solid science and regarded by most experts as a serious threat to wolverines.

It’s pretty hard to understand why FWS would dismiss the findings of its own experts on likely climate change impacts, or ignore other types of threats to the species that are widely acknowledged to be valid concerns. The truth is that wolverines are in serious trouble from a number of threats, along with any impacts coming from climate change. These animals already face a host of other problems, including a small population (fewer than 300 in the entire lower 48 states!) and low genetic diversity.

Wolverine, © Kalon BaughanFurthermore, the FWS asserts that the wolverine population in the Lower 48 is currently stable or slightly increasing, even though there is no published research to back up this assertion. Biologists estimate a current total wolverine population of fewer than 300 individuals, and that an average of only 35 animals each year are actually reproducing and contributing to the next generation. While new tools have recently allowed us to spot some wolverines in regions where they had not been seen for decades, these anecdotes are not proof that the population is expanding. Lone individuals here and there do not mean that breeding pairs are abundant. It is reckless to assume a population is increasing when the science isn’t there to prove it!

The FWS is supposed to make decisions based on the best available science. In this case, FWS chose be dismissive of the likely impacts from climate change and ignored a multitude of other threats to the wolverine. Defenders and other conservation groups will now challenge this flawed decision in federal court and we will keep you informed about our progress in getting the wolverine protection under the ESA.

Meanwhile, Defenders will continue our extensive work on the ground to help protect wolverines. We work to protect habitats important to wolverines and other species, support and perform monitoring and research, educate the public, and rally around possible reintroductions of this elusive predator.

It is a fundamentally American value to protect our land, air, water, and wildlife – that’s why Congress enacted the ESA. If we’re not willing to protect one of the rarest mammals in the Lower 48, a species with fewer than 300 individuals left south of the Canadian border and one of the lowest successful reproductive rates known to mammals, how imperiled does a species have to be to gain federal protection?

We currently have a petition to tell Secretary of the Department of the Interior Sally Jewell – who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service – to reconsider the serious threats to the survival of wolverines and immediately reverse this unsupportable decision. Please take part!

And for a little love to wolverines, here’s a great image made for Defenders by Erik Brooks of Harts Pass comic strip!

I Heart Wolverines, © Erick Brooks

Kylie Paul is the Rockies & Plains Representative at Defenders of Wildlife


69 Responses to “Wolverines in Lower-48 Denied Protection… Again”

  1. Michael Szpakowski

    If the Fish and wildlife commission has become that inept it is time to fire and replace all of them

    • Phil Simon

      There is no other species on Earth that causes most other species indigenous to a given area to go extinct once humans populate such an area. Knowing that fact should be sufficient for us to enact protective legislation on behalf of the wolverine, and most other mammals and birds, etc. wherever we happen to be. Wake-up whoever you are and exercise some compassion for all other species, both plant and animal, that are doing their best to accommodate our incredibly arrogant and ignorant one.

    • Rick russell

      Is there a traping permit for wolverines? In the USA. Or other.

  2. C. Sorensen

    I believe all wildlife should have federal protection. Human greed is making wild life’s territory to roam and survive smaller and smaller.

  3. Moumanti Podder

    If the authorities keep on neglecting species that are imperiled, only waiting for them to reach the brink of extinction, then we shall lose many important species of animals alarmingly fast. Take steps while there is still time, US Fish and Wildlife Commission.

  4. Jan Feuerstein

    Please protect these beautiful creatures. We need to take care of nature!

  5. Anna Stagnetta

    Human greed and narcisstic humans refuse to believe that the extinction of wildlife means extincton of our own species, caring not only for themselves, but of their own family generations…

  6. Bianka Charbonneau

    Les animaux sont les anges de la terre. Attention à la façon dont nous les traitons.

  7. Patricia Millard

    The concern over polar bears is world wide. Why aren’t we paying attention to an animal in our own backyard? As Mr Podder states it’s easier to protect them now than to drag them back from the brink of extinction. Please, Secretary Jewell, keep this fierce beautiful animal with us!

  8. Emily

    Had I known the Obama administration would be so detrimental to wildlife conservation, I would have probably stayed home on election day. When can we have an endangered species rally?

  9. Emily

    Let’s do a Wolverine Walk across America! Show them in Washington we aren’t just bitching behind computers. We mean business!

  10. Maggie Keefe

    I am really getting angry about the fact that almost daily I see a post just like this one about one species or another. It is unconscionable. The authorities in power now most certainly do. This is the first Administration that has had so little concern over the plight of our furry and some not so furry friends. Not to mention zero regard for their habitat. They don’t seem to understand that every species they allow to die off is putting our ecosystem one step closer to failing completely. They don’t get it. They are not intelligent enough or they just don’t give a damn, to see that they are ruining this planet. They don’t care that are killing off our legacy for the next generation. I want my Grandson to know that wildlife exists outside of a zoo. This just makes me want to cry.

    • Rowena Huser

      It seems like humans aren’t happy unless they destroy. We need to.take care of these animals…heck..ALL animals…extinction.is forever!

    • Lynn Beeskow Smith

      Very well said, Maggie. I don’t think anyone wants to see any of our wildlife extinct, except for the government. It is time to find a way to make them care.

  11. Tara Reiner

    Wolverines need federal protection. As well as other species in the USA. I think that since we have destroyed their homes, encroached on their natural habitat at the very least we should be protecting the few animals that have been strong enough to survive!!!

  12. kim b

    What is wrong with fws ? Add the wolverine to the list !!! You should be protecting as many animals as possible. !!! After all its because of mans disrecard for animals ,lack of humanity ,disrecard for earth these poor beings are dissapearing . time to step up to the plate idiots.

  13. kim b

    Nobamacare!!! Save the animals!!! stay out of others peoples business worry about the USA ….

    • J Emerson

      The wolverine is not threatened. It is a species that does not, and will never, be abundant in the lower 48. The female nests in snow in the springtime to raise her litter, so without really deep snow they do not thrive. The best protection for wolverines is protecting them from global warming, there is nothing else to do for them. Or for us.
      The ACA, or Obamacare, may irritate you but it’s saving many lives, which is good for the USA and Americans and their economy.

    • Iris Smith

      Obamacare has given a lot of people health insurance who otherwise would not be able to get it. Wake up and smell the coffee!!!

  14. Colleen Macdonald

    Are we trying to kill off all the animals in the world, except for those that we refer to as our pets? We needs wolverines, cougars,racoons,squirrels and all the weebeasties that nature has provided us with!! They are every bit as necessary to this world as we are! Think about it!!!!PLEASE!!!!!!

  15. gordon

    We humans have encroached upon the habitat of so many wildlife creatures with a complete disregard for their well being! To expect that “our” government and big business cares is a lost cause. Maybe we need to put a bounty on humans and where they can exist, then let’s see what happens1

  16. Joseph Yannuzzi

    It’s about time that significant changes are needed to re-organize and re-structure all state wildlife agencies and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It should be known that these agencies are exclusively run by hunters and those that advocate hunting as a wildlife management tool. Until these people can be replaced by responsible scientists and wildlife ecologists whose purpose is to manage our wildlife using non lethal means, we will suffer losses that will eventually lead many species down the path of extinction.
    Since only 7% of the population hunts, why isn’t the other 93% of us denied access and input into the way our wildlife heritage is managed?

  17. Emmanuel Fardoulis

    Wolverines are a top predator that keep over populations of say deer or rodents in check with out which North America and Eurasia would be over run by squirrels,mice,rats,and dead animal carcasses .
    We here in Australia do not have Wolverines but our equivalent are our Tasmanian Devils which keep introduced foxes in check . Africa and Asia have the Ratel or Honey Badger as well as Hyaenas ,all of which perform the same vital clean up service.All these predators including your wild cats need full protection as they are a part of the whole natural biological processes that have be on the Earth for millions of years

  18. Charlie

    We had a lone wolverine in the state of Michigan. Thankfully everyone steered clear and let him be… sadly though he was found dead after two years. They believed he crossed the ice from Canada. ALL animals need protection. Humans can be so cruel / and we keep building and taking over THEIR territory. They need our help

  19. Bonney Kohlman

    We are responsible for any problems the wolverines are experiencing. They are incredible animals and need our help and protection. Isn’t that your job, to help and protect species in decline?

  20. Bonney Kohlman

    Wolverines are such incredible animals and we need to help and protect them. Isn’t that your job to do? We have caused the problem and now we need to help fix it.

  21. Emmanuel Fardoulis

    Native Wild dogs of all species are also a must to save it helps to save the environments they all live in.

  22. Sam Shultz

    Our natural world is spiraling into a hostile place for all life, and it is time we extend protections for all species. Habitat fragmentation, poaching, urban sprawl, and climate change are taking a toll. Humans are supposed to be the caretakers of our world and its inhabitants, not the destroyers. We need new visionaries in our government to change laws that allow any destruction of any species. We are almost at midnight folks.

  23. Franklin D Fox Jr

    I have read the comments that everyone has wrote regarding this beautiful creature. There is a question that I would like to ask the very same people who wants to kill every living animal on the face of the earth? WHY?

  24. Dirk

    The job of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service is to manage all species to the advantage of the public and to maintain all species. It’s clear that this is not the goal of the Service in the case of Wolverines. 300 individuals in the entire lower 48 is practically the same as extinct — without proper and serious protections. A fifth grader could figure that out. This implies the Service has an agenda that has not surfaced. Secretary Jewell needs to step in and discover what’s going on here. Something clearly is not right. We can’t allow renegade operations to view a few in power. If the Sevice’s own biologist experts say it’s in danger …… Like I said, a 5th grader could ……

  25. Oliver Craig

    Is America run by gun loving psychopaths? When these creatures are finally gone you will never get them back again!

  26. William smith

    These poor animals need to be protected. It’s time the fws steps up and does the right thing. We have enough bureaucratic nonsense going on in this country. Don’t make these poor animals suffer.because of it.

  27. William smith

    Don’t let these poor animals suffer because of more bureaucratic nonsense
    Do the right thing and save as many of our animals as possible.

  28. Rachel Anne Landau and Edward Lilienkamp

    Interesting we can pay a football player 2.117 million dollars and cannot seem to pass a bill to protect our environment and wildlife what is this world thinking

    My vote is to help the wolves wolverines and all wild life this world is tweeked

  29. Lynn Beeskow Smith

    Yes, climate control has a lot to do with our animals disappearing. However, it is also because we have so many foreigners in our country. We keep letting them all in, and I am not just talking about illegal Mexicans. I am talking about all foreigners. Where I live, we are overrun with Indians, and I don’t mean native Indians, I’m t alking about the ones from India. We have Japanese, Chinese, etc., With all of them coming here in droves, we have to build more housing, which is taking away the precious land for these animals to live in. Stop letting so many people into our country and protect the precious land we have left. I should also mention industry destroying our land, which also needs to be dealt with.

  30. Jana-Rose Savit


    By not protecting wolverines, we are allowing their population to be targeted and culled by human hunters, for whatever purpose and reason they see fit. It’s another sad day for the less fortunate mammals who cannot protect themselves from technology and the whims of humans who lack empathy for wildlife.

  31. vicki hood

    I met a wolverine years ago in Colorado where they were not supposed to be. I did not know what this beautiful animal was other than i thought it was a small bear type crossed with something. Pit stop in the wild when we came face to face. He looked at me, maybe 6 feet away, i looked at him and we both said bye, quickly. What a beautiful experience. He or she has a right to a family and life that he or she was born for. To melt at the beauty of this innocent is different than the desire to kill them or control them. Loving our world means loving the innocents. If people don’t love our world they are truly empty of spirit and soul.

  32. Ellen Woodbury

    I believe part of endangered status for wildlife involves the preservation of the endangered species’ habitat. Wolverines have an absolutely enormous range–up to 500 square miles per male wolverine. That would mean setting aside/protecting a ton of wilderness. I think a group of people in a very powerful position does not want to tie up all that real estate to keep it safe for wolverines–an animal that relatively few people are even aware exists. They have other plans for that wilderness land in the future. It is easy for authorities (FWS) to hide behind inactivity in this situation. Also, just for the record, George Bush was the MAJOR climate denier president. He stifled all scientists researching global warming and forbade them to speak out about their findings or else they would lose their jobs and any funding they had. This included wolverines research scientists, the scientists studying deforestation of lodgepole pine forests in the Rockies due to the Pine Bark Beetle, and many other instances.

  33. Dean Frick

    As a native of the wolverine state of Michigan, I find it unacceptable not to protect this unique animal.

  34. Virginia H. Bennett

    It has been my opinion for quite some time, that the USF&WS is “in cahoots” withthe sheep & cattle ranchers of our western states. No matter how many scientists and ecologically “savy” people explain to them that our predators play a hugely important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems whereever they are, the USF&WS seems ready to “jump to” and carry out the ranchers’ demands. My question is: why are our ranchers so ready to financially support culling programs (indirectly through bribes!!), yet refuse to wisely invest their money in paying for cowboys & shepherds with guard animals to protect their stock??

  35. Don P

    Millions are raised & spent protecting a more highly visible brand of Wolverines (Michigan quarterbacks). If even a tiny portion of that money could be devoted to saving the real wolverines–perhaps by enlisting the aid of student organizers at U of M in particular, much more could be done to save Michigan’s state animal. It would be great PR for an athletic dept. much in need of it.

  36. Joyce

    I voted for Obama because I thought he would stand up for wildlife. I am very disappointed in our leaders.

  37. Chance Rearden

    This practice of yours is quite frankly asinine, wait until a species is near to extinction then you still have to debate whether or not to save it. Your JOB is to protect ALL wildlife! Wolverines were here before us, and they deserve to be protected.

  38. Philip Ratcliff

    It’s like the bad old days of the Bush regime, when government bureaucrats ignored science. Why is it happening under the Obama regime? Obama has made a lot of unsavory appointments into important governmental positions.

  39. Kay Campbell

    Fish and wildlife have puzzled me for decades with their approach in handling wildlife, the group who should be forefront in protecting species does nothing until the public rallies, laws are passed to force them to protect species….seems this organization is the biggest bottle neck holding back species protection. If this was a corporate operation it would have been closed down years ago! “Fish and wildlife” needs to live up to what the public believes is their job…protect fish and wildlife!

  40. Doug G

    There are numerous species that are entitled to be designated as endangered, because of the damage the human race has already done, but, will not be because to do so, would protect habitats these species need to survive. In doing that, various entities that seek to profit further from more exploitation of those habitats would be locked out of those lands.
    All the money they have paid to politicians would be for nothing, since the politicians keep the bureaucrats from doing what is right for the citizens and the wildlife of this nation, so they can keep getting kick backs.
    What other reason could there possibly be? In this nation, it is always about money. It would be nice if people would grow up and appreciate the wonders of the natural world. If they had from the beginning, just imagine the abundance of the natural world that would still be here! There would be no need for laws like the ESA because people would see to it that wildlife would be provided for. There may even be peace in the world, if only mankind really was as intelligent as he espoused.

  41. Iris Smith

    I am a Wolverine as I have two degrees from the University of Michigan. Michigan Alumni do not want the wolverine to go extinct!!!

  42. Jane Van Haaften

    I believe that is our legal & moral responsibility to protect these endangered wolverines NOW!

  43. Paulette Kaplan

    According to the Living Planet Index, there has been a 52% decline in thousands of vertebrate species in the last 40 years. Isn’t it time to care for and protect what we have left? What are we waiting for?

  44. Joyce

    According to the latest research, we have lost half of our wildlife in the past 40 years. After seeing posts like this, I guess we don’t have to wonder why…I am deeply saddened and disappointed…

  45. Carlen Lovejoy

    Once we use an animal as a sports team mascot or cartoon character, we don’t seem to care about the living ones.

  46. Clinton Nagel

    I am deeply disappointed that FWS has taken such action. Perhaps betrayal is a better word. That an agency would ignore the science and their own recommendations is illogical despite the logic provided defending their decision. I expected better under this administration.

  47. Paulette Kaplan

    According to the Living Planet Index Report, invertebrate populations have decreased by 50% in the last 50 years. Seems we should be hanging onto every species we can.

  48. rockey miller

    Here in Michigan i wish we had some wolverines, they need to be protected and reintroduced to our great state.

  49. Anita Lane

    It is really disappointing that the FWS sticks to its own agenda rather than their own biologists. We are on the brink of wiping out all wildlife and the planet is truly in trouble then. The ecosystem is unbalanced already and FWS just wants to continue down the path of no return. Sad.

  50. Joyce Levy

    Why can’t people just leave animals alone? Stupid is as stupid does.

  51. ronald messina

    take all those “brave” hunters and put them in a pit together with no food for 15 days, just knives……let the dice fall wherever they may

  52. Roxanne Bradshaw

    I continue to ask myself why this conflict exists within the US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. I know in my own state (Colorado) the Fish and Game Dept. is primarily supported and guided by the sportsman’s associations. Maybe between the various sport associations and the NRA the NFW is just a puppet organization. Too bad we have such weak leadership for the Dept. of the Interior.

  53. vero

    Someone posted there are no wolverines in Michigan–is that true? It’s the mascot for U of Michigan, right? Isn’t it time to stop the carnage and realize that wildlife is a national treasure that we aree lucky to have. IMO nations that protect their wildlife and the habitat they need now, will be the envy of the world in the future. It is a huge source of poride for USA that we still have remants of the once flourishing wildlife we had–let’s protect it. I feel the priorities are so messed up and not enough attention is paid. The government is actually harming our wildlife heritage–WHY???

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