GREAT FALLS — Researchers are working on a plan to study wolverines in four Rocky Mountain states to see if the animals that look like small bears with big claws can be reintroduced to some regions to boost their numbers and see how they might travel between mountain ranges.
Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington state are working together because there are so few wolverines and they are spread across a wide area, a researcher with Montana’s wildlife agency said.
“It doesn’t occur that often that four states start to think about managing a species together,” said Bob Inman, carnivore and fur bearer coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The study is expected to begin next winter, using trail cameras to capture images and copper brushes to collect DNA when the animals pass by.
Wolverines are rarely seen by humans and roam in deep snow and steep terrain. There are now up to 300 in the four states.
The work will be done in the winter when bears are hibernating so researchers can focus on the wolverines.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are helping pay for the study.
Representatives from the states began discussing what could be done for wolverines and came up with a study proposal about a year ago, the Great Falls Tribune reported.
“We’re identifying places that are good habitat that don’t have wolverines so we might be able to put them there to increase population size,” Inman said.
Under the plan, the states will come up with a map of wolverine habitat that will be useful for land trust organizations working with private landowners on conservation easements to prevent development.