Wolverine Birthday is coming up on February 14th. This is the symbolic birthday of wolverine kits around the world, although in reality, of course, wolverine births range from January to March. Valentine’s Day makes a good reference point, though. I admit to a certain bias, but the birth of wolverine kits seems way more interesting than a fat little cupid and some chocolate. So to encourage Gulo fans around the world to broaden the celebration of love to include love for all species, I’m challenging readers to come up with ways to celebrate Wolverine Birthday in addition to Valentine’s Day. I’ll be hosting a Wolverine Birthday Party, which will include only foods that wolverines eat. Salmon, elk, and berries will be on the menu, and we’ll have a screening of Chasing the Phantom for an audience that hasn’t seen it before. If you are also celebrating Wolverine Birthday, let me know how. You could even combine the two holidays, for example by creating a wolverine dinner date – climb or ski to the top of a snow-clad peak, and dig a week-old elk haunch out of the snow (only try this with someone you’ve been seeing for a while, and only if they have a sense of humor.) Or maybe just ski in wolverine habitat and see if you find any tracks. I leave the creativity to my readers. If you do decide to do something, leave a description of the event as a comment. The most creative endeavor will win a piece of original wolverine artwork. You have until February 21st to post your story.
In wolverine news, the most recent update for the Central Idaho Wolverine and Winter Recreation study is now available. The project is in the middle of its third field season, after two highly successful years collaring wolverines on the Payette, Boise, and Sawtooth National Forests. Their rates of trapping success, particularly of denning females, leaves me envious and in awe. I haven’t participated in this project, but I’ve kept track of it from afar, and I am continually impressed not only with the number of wolverines that they monitor, but also by the fantastic support of the recreation community and local businesses. The report includes a couple of great images, including one that amply illustrates the use of sub-snow downfall at a denning site.
The tracking workshop hosted last week by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and Wild Things Unlimited seems to have been a success; they found tracks and collected DNA, reaffirming that citizen science can be valuable to research efforts. It was inspiring enough for a post and description by one enthusiastic participant. Wolverines are converting people at a pretty rapid clip, which provides an opportunity (for awareness-raising, for conservation, and for research) but also a potential liability (one of these days, I’ll get around to writing about the way in which charismatic species are the fossil fuel of the conservation movement….)
Canadian papers are picking up a story – three months after the fact – about a wolverine using a highway overpass in Banff National Park for the first time (these overpasses are landscaped and pretty posh, as far as wildlife crossings go.) Nine wolverine crossings have been recorded at nearby underpasses, but this is the first use of an overpass. The underpass crossings seem to have picked up over the past two years. In the article, researcher Tony Clevenger states:
“We don’t know a lot about wolverines, but we do know there’s a learning curve, which we’ve seen for grizzly bears and black bears as well…Perhaps this is what we’re seeing, that it’s an initiation of a learning curve, that they’re starting to figure out what these things are and starting to use them.”
This made me start to think. We’ve “seen” wolverines following other wolverines around in GPS and telemetry data, and scent marking might help wolverines navigate the landscape. If wolverines follow the scent-trails of other wolverines, scent-marking a route across an overpass or underpass might encourage wolverines to use the structure more quickly. Of course, acquiring wolverine scent would be tricky, so maybe this isn’t such a brilliant idea. But I’m betting that now that one wolverine has crossed, others will follow with increasing frequency, if there are others in the area.
Speaking of dispersal, High Country News published a thought-provoking piece about the popularity of corridors in conservation discourse, and the very real challenges to actually protecting them. I am a landscape ecology geek and I love all of the thinking that goes into figuring out sizes of protected areas, island biogeography, and the configuration of dispersal corridors, but….I also worry that in taking an approach that relies heavily on technical problem-solving, we’re ignoring the bigger issue of how we relate to landscape and development. Maybe the focus should not be on setting aside limited areas for wildlife dispersal. Maybe the emphasis should be on setting aside limited areas for development instead, so that we maintain a permeable matrix of natural landscape by which human settlements are surrounded, instead of the other way around. (Yes, yes, I know I’m a raging idealist in addition to being a geek.)