A recent ongoing study indicates that about 40 wolverines are living in Glacier National Park, a U.S. Forest Service biologist says.
Rick Yates said that a study that started in January to collect wolverine fur samples is providing DNA samples from the secretive mammals.
“Glacier really is the premier place to carry out wolverine research because of the density of the population there,” Yates told the Missoulian. There are “two to three times as many wolverines as there would be farther north.”
The study is being carried out by Glacier wildlife biologist John Waller and more than 50 volunteers who head into the park’s remote backcountry to collect fur samples wolverines leave on wire brushes attached to bait posts.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December listed wolverines as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act based on the threat of climate change.
“(Wolverines) are dependent on late-spring snowpack, and the worry is that as these snowbound conditions diminish they’re not going to have the opportunities to breed and raise their kits,” Waller said. “We need to start talking about population sizes if we hope to know whether there’s enough of a population to sustain a future.”
During the current study, Waller and crews have been making repeated visits into the park’s backcountry to visit 30 sites.
At the sites, road-killed deer carcasses are put on trees or bait posts, on which wire brushes are attached to collect fur from wolverines. That fur is then gathered and sent to a lab for DNA analysis to determine how many individual wolverines visited the trees and bait posts.
“By continuing to collect DNA, John’s helping to continue to illuminate the wolverine’s genetic baseline for the park,” Yates said. “And that is important. We should be doing that with all the animals.”
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