Wolverine Returns to Colorado

June 18, 2009

After a 90-year absence, a reclusive carnivore reappears in Colorado. WCS scientists have tracked the animal on a 500-mile odyssey.

He traveled over mountain ranges and highways and across state lines. He sought territory and a female—and in the process, attained fame. Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researchers working with state and federal partners have tracked the lone wolverine since early April. The animal has now crossed into northern Colorado—marking the first known incidence of a wolverine in the state since 1919.

The wolverine, a young male labeled M56, was captured near Grand Teton National Park and traveled approximately 500 miles during April and May. The animal navigated significant manmade features including Interstate 80—the heavily trafficked route across Wyoming that links Chicago, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco.

WCS researchers affixed a radio-tracking collar to the wolverine as part of an ongoing study to understand these wide-ranging, little-known animals. A growing body of research shows that wolverines need large areas to survive and that the young often disperse long distances between mountain ranges to find a territory and mates.

The Greater Yellowstone Wolverine Program is a unique public-private partnership between WCS, the state game departments in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, Grand Teton National Park, and the Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, and Gallatin National Forests.

Even though an adult wolverine averages only 30 pounds, its home range is often as large as a grizzly bear’s. The size of its territory—as much as 500 square miles for some adult males—limits the number of individuals that a given area can support. Adults tend to inhabit areas above timberline where temperatures plunge below the freezing mark and avalanche chutes are snow-covered for much of the year.

“Wolverines are the real ‘iron men’ of the animal kingdom traveling seemingly non-stop in some of the most rugged country in North America,” said Robert Inman, director of WCS’s Yellowstone Wolverine Program. “It is great news that this animal has ventured into Colorado where it hasn’t been documented in 90 years, but it also underscores the need to manage this species at a multi-state, landscape scale.”

This state, federal, and private partnership represents the longest ongoing study of wolverines in North America, and has focused its field-based research on documenting the species-specific biology necessary to develop successful management strategies here in the Lower 48.

Wolverines are the largest land-dwelling members of the weasel family. Resident adults occupy habitats in Arctic Alaska and Canada, and range south into the lower 48 states only in high mountains where near-Arctic conditions exist.

Read the press release: After 90 Years, Wolverine Returns to Colorado


Related:
Wolverine Goes AWOL

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