Feds: Climate change imperils wolverines
By The Associated Press
Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 10:12 a.m.
BILLINGS, Mont. — The tenacious wolverine, a snow-loving carnivore sometimes called the “mountain devil,” is being added to the list of species threatened by climate change — a dubious distinction that puts it in the ranks of the polar bear and several other animals that could see their habitats shrink drastically due to warming temperatures.
Federal wildlife officials on Friday will propose Endangered Species Act protections for the wolverine in the lower 48 states, a step twice denied under the Bush administration.
The Associated Press obtained details of the government's long-awaited ruling on the rare and elusive animal in advance of Friday's announcement.
There are only 250 to 300 wolverines in the contiguous U.S., clustered into small, isolated groups primarily in the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington. Larger populations persist in Alaska and Canada.
Maxing out at 40 pounds and tough enough to stand up to grizzly bears, the animals will be no match for anticipated declines in deep mountain snows that female wolverines need to establish dens and raise their young, scientists said.
Yet because that habitat loss could take decades to unfold, federal wildlife officials said there's still time to bolster the population, including by reintroducing them to the high mountains of Colorado.
Wildlife advocates, who sued to force the government to act on the issue, said they hope the animal's plight will be used by the Obama administration to leverage tighter restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. As with the polar bear, the government could sidestep that thorny proposition by not addressing threats outside the wolverine's immediate range.
But a special rule proposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service would allow Colorado's wildlife agency to reintroduce an experimental population of the animals that eventually could spill into neighboring portions of New Mexico and Wyoming.
Federal officials also want to shut down wolverine trapping in Montana, the only one of the lower 48 states where the practice is still allowed.
In recent years, Montana wildlife officials have waged court battles against environmentalists who want to stop trapping. If Friday's proposal goes through after a public comment period, wolverine trapping would be banned.
Federal officials said other human activities - from snowmobiling and skiing to infrastructure development and transportation corridors - are not significant threats to wolverines and would not be curtailed under Friday's proposal.
Once found throughout the Rocky Mountains and in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, wolverines were wiped out across the Lower 48 by the 1930s due to unregulated trapping and poisoning campaigns, said Bob Inman, a wolverine researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society.
In the decades since, they've largely recovered in the Northern Rockies but not in other parts of their historical range, he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- RiverQuest short of money, looks for a partner
- Chocolate prices expected to soar as ingredients grow more expensive
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- ‘We Are FR’ fund going strong
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Police say Latrobe woman bought gun for boyfriend, who shot neighbor
- Holtgraver holds on to win Lernerville opener
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Squeezed by competition, Chobani to expand offerings
- Pastor’s childhood tale, scar key to Easter message