Thank you to everyone who turned out for Wolverine Night on Thursday! We had 250 people in the audience, and five amazing speakers.
Gianna Savoie illuminated clips of the upcoming PBS Nature wolverine documentary Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom with stories about the evolution of the film and her own journey from wildlife biologist to filmmaker. In a dark theater on the bigscreen, the clips were spine-tingling, and the audience laughed, sighed, and ooh-ed and aw-ed over the antics of the wolverines and their scientist pursuers.
Jeff Copeland discussed his new paper The bioclimatic envelope of the wolverine(Gulo gulo): do climatic restraints limit its geographic distribution?, offering an explanation of why wolverine populations depend on female habitat selection and how that selection is tied to spring snow. He built a compelling case for the threats that wolverines may be facing in the Rockies as the climate warms, and the scientific analysis underscored the need for a constituency of people who not only delight in watching documentaries about wolverines, but who understand their life history, habitat requirements, and conservation needs.
Rick Yates shared stories about his years on the Glacier Project, and had the audience laughing as he answered questions and recounted anecdotes. Doug Chadwick presented an entertaining slideshow with uproarious commentary, and then read two short passages from his new book The Wolverine Way – one about how compelling and individually tough wolverines are, the other about how fragile on the population level. Jason Wilmot wrapped up with a summary of things people can do to help: get interested, learn more, document sightings, and contribute to research, either through participating in citizen science efforts or, if possible, by donating to research organizations that are trying to find answers to the most compelling management questions.
It was a long evening, but the length illustrates the complexity of the story and, as Gianna said, the fact that you can’t fit everything in to just an hour. At a reception after the presentation, the speakers were swamped with more questions, while Doug signed copies of his book (which looks wonderful, and I’ve only read the table of contents so far.) I was impressed by the quality of people’s questions – everything from an older gentleman asking me why wolverines require such large territories if prey species are abundant, to an eight-year-old girl earnestly requesting a brochure so that she could read more about wolverines – and overwhelmed by all the positive energy.
So thank you again to everyone who helped the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative make this event happen: to the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, who co-funded both our backcountry wolverine project and this event; and to the reception co-sponsors, the Wolverine Foundation, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, the Murie Center, the Winter Wildlands Alliance, and American Wildlands. Thanks to those who hosted our speakers in their homes, to reporter Johanna Love for her great articles in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, to the Museum of Wildlife Art for all their assistance, to the audience and to all those who came up to us at breakfast the next morning and around town to express their interest – Jackson is a great community. Thanks especially to the speakers for making their long journeys (physical, imaginative, and intellectual) to arrive at Wolverine Night and speak to the importance of conserving this incredible species.