Feds consider adding wolverines to endangered list

Status Review is a result of a lawsuit

Wolverines are very rare in the Lower 48 but there have been a few notable confirmations of them in Colorado where there is one being tracked by a gps collar and another in California which has been photographed with a remote camera for three consecutive years. They also inhabit Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington but are under threat from winter disturbance by snowmobiling, and trapping in Montana.

Feds consider adding wolverines to endangered list
By JUDITH KOHLER Associated Press Writer






  1. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    Montana once again shows their incompetence. I talked to the head of trapping in Montana 6 months ago, who told me point blank that they weren’t sure how many wolverines there are in montana. I questioned how they could set an arbitrary quota of 6 if they didn’t know how many there were. His response was to tell me that they had already hit the quota! These people like him and Carolyn “We didn’t realize that wolves would be so sensitive to firearms harvest” Sime are an embarrassment.

    1. Mike Avatar

      …and what about the wolverines caught in traps we don’t know about? Not everyone dutifully reports their catch or catches exactly what they intend to . I wonder how many dens have been abandoned from all the snowmobiling high-liners too.

  2. jon Avatar

    They basically could have killed off the whole population in that state if there were indeed 6 wolverines left. If you don’t know how many animals are left, there shouldn’t be a trapping season. Why anyone would kill a wolverine is beyond me.

  3. Jon Way Avatar

    North Dakota also allows hunting mountain lions having no idea how many there are in the state and calls it experimental…

  4. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    That has to be one of the most irresponsible decisions you could find. I have heard numbers of 50 or so in the state, and the shear randomness of trapping that can’t discriminate male from female, so if 3 of the six harvested wolverines are female, with their slow reproductive cycle, the species is doomed. That’s wildlife management for you, but what do you expect from a state that has a livestock agency manage wild bison populations!

  5. JB Avatar

    Frankly, the feds should have listed them the last time around. Their new (since ~2000) method of dealing with listing petitions seems to be to deny everything the first time around and only list after they’ve lost a lawsuit. It must be extremely discouraging to work on listing petitions at FWS.

    1. WM Avatar

      Maybe if they get this wolf delisting issue behind them, they can concentrate on species that really are in trouble. I kind of find it disingenuous that groups like Defenders have pushed wolverines to the sidelines. I guess they don’t look cute on a wall calendar, like a wolf.

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      If you read the press release related to fishers you will notice that David Gilliard, who I met last summer, from DOW is involved with them. He also works on wolverine issues as well.

    3. WM Avatar

      The DOW, et al, v. FWS settlement of the 2008 suit is definitely a start. A decision whether to list wolverines is due by end of 2010, and I bet FWS does it. However, my intent was to say Defenders, which I think is the only national organization in the plaintiff group (except maybe CBD) doesn’t seem to spend much time talking up the wolverine issue in their publications or campaigns.

      I am also uncertain why the states don’t talk it up either. What is the down side, other than the nominal trapping in MT?

      I have only seen one wolverine, and that was in MT in the Bob, maybe 30 years ago. I have seen probably three fishers at separate times in ID and MT, again many years ago. I look forward to seeing one of those just released to Olympic NP, two years ago, I think.

    4. jon Avatar

      WM, wolves are in trouble. Idaho’s ultimate goal is reduce wolf #s down to under 200. There are probably more than 1000 wolves in Idaho right now. That is hundreds and hundreds of wolves killed. At this very point in time though, wolverines should be looked at more for protection than wolves. Wolverines need protection and the hunting and trapping of them should be banned.

    5. JB Avatar


      I think your opinion on the wolf issue may be obscuring your vision regarding Defenders’ role in endangered species-related issues. I have plenty of criticism for DOW, but their actions in ESA-related lawsuits are the reason we are listing any species at all. They were lead plaintiff in the flat-tailed horned lizard case (hardly a warm fuzzy) that ultimately led to the listing of the lynx (and other species). They have been extremely strategic, and groups like WWP are now reaping the benefits.

    6. WM Avatar

      Actually, JB, it is more an issue of allocating scarce resources. When I first became involved in the wolf reintroduction issue some years back, I kept asking the question why so much effort was directed to it, while other equally or maybe even more important species were subservient to this interest. Of course, historically, politically and culturally I do understand why. My passion was not directed against the attention the wolves were getting at that time, but the lack of attention the other species were getting. The problem, as I see it, is that it still seems to be going on.

      I had a pretty empassioned telephone conversation with the ESA section head at FWS in DC about three years ago on this very topic. Her name escapes me at the moment.

      For what it is worth, notwithstanding my criticisms of DOW on the wolf issue, I do appreciate their efforts in conjunction with Earthjustice (Sierra Club legal arm), for many causes they take on. It is very important work and much slower than many of us would like. And yes, my wife is a member and we do contibute financially.

    7. JB Avatar

      “When I first became involved in the wolf reintroduction issue some years back, I kept asking the question why so much effort was directed to it, while other equally or maybe even more important species were subservient to this interest.”

      (1) Wolves once ranged throughout the U.S. Protecting wolves under the ESA has [or had] the potential to protect a lot of the resources (and species) in one fail swoop.

      (2) High interest (and controversy) regarding wolves means that (a) groups like Defenders can raise money via the wolf issue, which help them to protect other species that are less well-known to J.Q. Public, and (b) wolves serve as a “test case” for nailing down policy.

      (3) Many saw the return of the wolf to the west as a way of “rewilding” ecosystems that had largely been subjugated to human uses.

      If you can’t succeed with restoration of the arguably the most charismatic species of wildlife in the U.S., then why even bother?

    8. JB Avatar

      Just re-read my last post. Sorry, I didn’t mean for it to sound “preachy”. Personally, I think Defenders has done a fabulous job in the courtroom, and this will pay dividends over the long term for LOTS of species.

    9. WM Avatar


      You forgot:

      (4) They’re just so gosh darn cute, especially the pups. Makes those wealthy socialite widows living in the high-rises lining NY’s Central Park add an extra zero to every charitable donation check they write.

      (5) There would be no lingering mystery whether the Defenders logo was a wolf or a coyote.

      …work at this long enough and we could probably come up with a “10 best reasons.” LOL

  6. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    JB– as you probably already know, things got so bad in the USFWS that the biological opinion that was a protective mechanism built into the ESA was farmed out to the developers themselves, who got a template that they had to fill out, talk about the fox guarding the henhouse! Kempthorne in Interior was too busy designing his new bathroom rather than focus on ESA listings like the jaguar, wolverine and sage grouse. What a dark time for the environmental movement

    1. JB Avatar


      It seems no matter who is in the White House, they are only interested in catering to the wished of extractive users. Congress and the Executive have done everything they can to minimize the effect of this law. Their actions–in my opinion–are a travesty.

  7. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    I agree, however the Obama administration is trying, unlike the Bush admin to restore protections, wasn’t it last week that they restored the ESA protection of two independent consultations relating to environmental impact? Whether it’s coal, oil, livestock, healthcare, these are powerful interests. These conservatives that want freedom and no regulation puts our economy in the ditch, gets coal miners dead, these people are crying about taxes when taxes are as low as they have been in 50 years!! This country is so uninformed it’s pathetic

    1. JB Avatar

      There are things that I like about Obama (e.g. his pragmatism, and willingness to tackle hard issues with input from all sides). However, I think his record on the environments is middle of the road, at best. For the Obama Administration it has been all about energy, with little attention paid to other issues (many of which we discuss here). Frankly, I’m still upset about the appointment of Ken Salazar to Interior.

  8. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    With this political climate all you will get is middle of the road. The health care bill was very centrist, and look at the disaster that was. I don’t know Salazar very well, but my impression is that after the BLM corruption and Julie Mcdonald stuff at Interior that Obama was looking for someone straight laced and disciplined that would restore a sense of order to that department. I don’t think they have handled the Whaling situation right.

  9. pointswest Avatar

    What can I do (besides fork over money) to help get them on the endangered species list?

  10. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    Wasn’t it Montana last year or possibly the year before where the Park Service I think had to ask the state of Montana to decrease the number of traps because many study wolverines were getting killed in the traps? Trapping is this “19th century form of animal harvest, and they are the LAST group to change- it’s status quo all the way with these people- they don’t want any animal protection, no regs, no mandatory trapline checks- it’s really disturbing the destruction that they cause

  11. jon Avatar

    William, isn’t Montana about to ban public trapping? I heard that somewhere. Any truth to it?

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      No they are not about to, there is a citizens bill on the agenda for a vote this fall, but that does not guarantee passage, it will be up the citizens of the state if they wish to ban trapping, there is nothing in the state legislature pending.

    2. Elk275 Avatar

      I do not think that they have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot yet. I doubt that it will pass in the general election if it makes the ballot.

    3. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      I agree Elk,

      I, after reviewing the bill as well as how it is going, don’t think it has any chance..

  12. jon Avatar

    I meant trapping on public lands.

  13. jon Avatar

    I also want to bring up a good point, when people’s pets get trapped in hunter’s traps and die from being trapped, trappers will tell pet owners to watch their pets carefully, but when a hunter loses hound dogs in the woods to wolves where they know wolves run rampant, it is the wolves fault and they should be killed for it in the hunter’s mind. Notice the hypocrisy here?

  14. Kayla Avatar

    Well, if the Feds do add the Wolverine to the Endangered
    list then good – finally. In my opinion this should of been
    done years and years ago.

  15. Nancy Avatar

    Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands (MTFPL) http://www.mttrapfree.org (for information on I-160)
    or visit http://www.footloosemontana.org

  16. WM Avatar

    Further to my earlier point about spending too much federal $$$ on one species at the peril of others:

    From Ken’s thread article on the 4-17 N. Cascade grizzley sightings (Wenatchee World newspaper).

    “A final plan to recover the grizzly bear in the North Cascades has been at a standstill for many years, due to lack of funds to conduct an environmental impact statement that would look at alternatives for recovering the bear.”

    While I have no scientific basis for the lenght of time, my guess is it will taken twenty or more years to get a couple dozen bears to inhabit the N. Cascades, AFTER the chosen alternative from an EIS review begins implementation. Wolverines, and fisher may take just as long for reintroduction once listed because of their low reproduction rates and habitat requirements. And we continue to pour federal money, time and energy into the wolf fiasco.

  17. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    This ballot initiative in Montana shows how trappers see this ban on public land trapping as an outright threat to their outdated heritage of access to their natural renewable resource, at the expense of dozens of other species, including pets, endangered species etc You know the numbers of unintended victims never see the light of day. But like everything, trappers need to be forced to change. People will need to vote, and I’m sure there are more people that favor the ban than oppose it. If i’m not mistaken we are talking 35 % public land compared to 65% private.

  18. jon Avatar

    Myth: Trapping is a necessary wildlife management tool.

    Trappers and wildlife managers claim that trapping prevents species from overpopulating and destroying their habitat by removing “surplus” animals from the wild. This simplistic argument, however, belies the dynamics of wildlife populations. First, the term “surplus” as used by trappers is an ecological fallacy — every animal, alive or dead, plays an important role in its ecosystem as either predator or prey. Second, available habitat and food resources generally limit the size of wildlife populations. When a wildlife population approaches the limit that the habitat can sustain — the “carrying capacity” — reproduction and survival decrease because less food is available to each individual, and the population begins to decline. In this way, nature has been regulating itself for millennia without our help.

    Trapping generally removes healthy individuals from the population rather than the sick, aged, infirm, or very young animals most often subjected to natural selection. It would be “blind luck” if a trapper were to trap an animal that would have otherwise died of starvation or any other natural cause, so trapping actually works against nature’s selection process.

    In truth, trappers are mainly interested in manipulating wildlife populations for their own benefit. State wildlife agencies actively manage populations of furbearers to ensure that there are enough animals for trappers to kill, not to prevent biological

  19. jon Avatar

    not to prevent biological overpopulation.

  20. jon Avatar

    Myth: Only abundant species are trapped.

    Historically, unregulated trapping almost wiped out beaver, sea otter, lynx, wolverine, and other species in many areas of the U.S. Today, some state wildlife management agencies continue to allow the trapping of highly sensitive species, including wolverine, fisher, marten, kit fox, and lynx. For example, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) considered listing the Canada lynx under the Endangered Species Act, Montana continued to allow lynx to be commercially trapped — even when a 1999 U.S. Forest Service report concluded, “Lynx appear to be extremely susceptible to trapping, and where trapping is permitted it can be (and has been) a significant source of mortality.”15 Unfortunately, because population modeling and furbearer data collection are so poor in many states, we do not know the impact trapping has on sensitive species — often until it is too late.

  21. Mike Avatar

    We can only hope that the Feds list the wolverine and pull the rug out from under the hacks in Montana.

  22. Jeremy Roberts Avatar

    Conservation Media just produced this short film for the Wolverine Foundation.


    Please help spread it around by sharing, linking, embedding, and forwarding it to everyone who you think might care. And even those who you think don’t care.


    Jeremy R. Roberts
    Conservation Media


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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