Cool Science
So you want to survey wolverines

October 6, 2015

2zng5h8vod img 0568 gulo tracks with fox
Photo Credit: ©Martin Robards/WCS

WCS's Arctic Beringia Program recently sponsored the largest-ever survey of wolverines on the Arctic Slope of Alaska. Spotting one out there, though, even with an aerial view like this (which we've zoomed in on), isn't easy. Wolverines are solitary and some males can range 150-plus miles.

There are also competing tracks to weed out. If you look closely at this image, you can see the footprints of a fox, too. How's one to tell the difference? The size of the tracks helps, says WCS's Martin Robards. Also, unlike the tracks of a fox and a wolf, which usually fall in a straight line in sets of one or two, wolverine tracks look "messy"—two or three marks offset from the previous prints.

Robards and the survey team would know. The chart below is a snapshot of their collective efforts. Each hexagon is 100 square kilometers (or 38-plus square miles) of Alaskan terrain.

6oviyacu07 north slope survey effort for wcs website
Photo Credit: Lucy Poley

We need your help

Your tax-deductible gift supports cutting-edge exhibits, first-class animal care, and in-depth research to help threatened wildlife survive and thrive.