2011 may go down in history as the Year of Snow; it seems like all of North America was bombarded throughout the winter.
Now that spring has officially started, however, and now that wolverine dens are the biggest thing on wolverine fans’ minds, it’s time to start watching the really important snow trend: how long the snow remains on the ground. Does it stick around in your area of interest long enough for a female wolverine to den? A real-time snow map allows the viewer to see how much snow cover currently exists in the United States (unfortunately it doesn’t extend to other countries, not even Canada). Fans of Jeff Copeland’s and the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s work on the link between wolverine distribution and snow cover can follow in the footsteps of some great science and conduct their own monitoring via this site.
If you’re wondering if wolverines live in your area, check back at this site in mid-May. If you’ve got snow on the ground at that time, it’s a possibility. If not, wolverines probably aren’t breeding nearby.
As spring progresses, this map should also give a good illustration of the meaning of the phrase “meta-population inhabiting islands of habitat in the Rockies.” Screenshot the page on May 15th and you’ll have a rough picture of where those islands are….and how widely they’re separated.
In cropping these screenshots, I realize that I actually cropped out the key – the areas of light pink indicate the highest level of snowpack, 60+ inches, while the light blue represents snow cover of about 1 inch. For wolverine purposes, reproductive habitat is probably indicated by areas that currently have 60+ inches of snow on the ground – gulo dens are deep.