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Wolverine futures in a changing climate

Date: November 02, 2015


Background

Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) have demonstrated that wolverines are dependent upon persistent spring snow for denning. This factor is critical in determining the future extent and survival of wolverine populations. To build on this understanding, the National Forest System and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) provided funding for RMRS to work with the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group to predict where suitable snow might exist for wolverine in the future.

 
Current wolverine range (black outline) compared to persistent spring snow cover (Apr. 24-May 15). Wolverine range derived by expert opinion at 2005 international conference in Sweden.
Current wolverine range (black outline) compared to persistent spring snow cover (Apr. 24-May 15). Wolverine range derived by expert opinion at 2005 international conference in Sweden.

Key Findings

Research results are used in wolverine reintroduction efforts and by the USFWS as they examine the wolverine as a candidate for listing as a threatened or endangered species. Colorado and California, places where wolverines were eliminated in the last century, are now seen as suitable sites for reintroduction based on predicted climate futures and wolverine needs. It is important to get the reintroduction efforts correct the first time, as there are few wolverine populations to draw from and the process is expensive.

RMRS researchers have found ways to apply models derived from current genetic patterns to future landscapes to inform land management decisions on current and likely future corridor locations. The researchers have partnered with state agencies and private organizations to provide maps identifying corridor locations in order to optimize wolverine population connectivity. While current efforts are focused on wolverines, these newly developed tools can be applied to a variety of organisms to inform their potential future in a changing climate.

Featured Publications

McKelvey, Kevin S. ; Copeland, Jeffrey P. ; Schwartz, Michael K. ; Littell, Jeremy S. ; Aubry, Keith B. ; Squires, John R. ; Parks, Sean A. ; Elsner, Marketa M. ; Mauger, Guillaume S. , 2011
Copeland, J. P. ; McKelvey, Kevin S. ; Aubry, K. B. ; Landa, A. ; Persson, J. ; Inman, R. M. ; Krebs, J. ; Lofroth, E. ; Golden, H. ; Squires, John R. ; Magoun, A. ; Schwartz, Michael K. ; Wilmot, J. ; Copeland, C. L. ; Yates, R. E. ; Kojola, I. ; May, R. , 2010
Schwartz, Michael K. ; Copeland, Jeffrey P. ; Anderson, Neil J. ; Squires, John R. ; Inman, Robert M. ; McKelvey, Kevin S. ; Pilgrim, Kristy L. ; Waits, Lisette P. ; Cushman, Samuel A. , 2009
Aubry, Keith B. ; McKelvey Kevin S., ; Copeland Jeffrey P., , 2007


Principal Investigators - External: 
Jeffrey P. Copeland - Rocky Mountain Research Station (retired)
Forest Service Partners: 
Northern Region
Pacific Northwest Research Station
External Partners: 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
University of Washington, Climate Impacts Group
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Wildlife Research and Management
Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative
The Wolverine Foundation
Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences