In (very) brief, and with promises of more detailed discussion to come: the 127-page proposed rule for listing wolverines as threatened under the ESA warrants an attentive reading by anyone interested in the species. The introduction summarizes the state of the science and discusses how and why weight is given to certain studies, and in and of itself, this is valuable to consider. For those who are just looking for the major points, though – wolverines are threatened due to climate change. Reduction in suitable denning habitat, which is projected to contract by up to 63% in the coming decades, is of major concern, but the synergistic effects of climate change and other threats – notably, trapping in Montana – are also referenced. While acknowledging that trapping has not provided a serious threat in the past and probably wouldn’t in the future in the absence of climate change, the rule states that ongoing trapping in Montana is not viable for wolverines, especially when inadvertent take and by-catch are taken into consideration. Recreation, including snowmobile use, is not deemed to be of concern. A reintroduced population in Colorado could substantially bolster the Rocky Mountain population and increase genetic viability over the long term, but this population would be given 10(j) status as an ‘experimental, nonessential population,’ to reduce management conflicts. The comment period on the proposed rule is open through May, and the USFWS seeks input from people with scientific knowledge and meaningful contributions to an understanding of management challenges. In a single paragraph, that’s the gist of the rule.
The circulation of the proposed rules for wolverine listing have generated a flurry of press – this is just a rundown for people who are interested in keeping up with what’s being written. At 10:00 this morning, there were three news articles on wolverines listed on Google; at 8:30 this evening, there are 233. That’s probably more press than wolverines have gotten in a single day, ever.
The official US Fish and Wildlife Service press release summarizes the rule and its implications. A summary at OnEarth Magazine of wolverine conservation is a good overview of the situation, with some quotes from Jeff Copeland, although the article is in serious need of some copyediting (punctuation issues lead the piece to suggest that sheep are carnivores, and that wolverine populations are greater at the southern edge of their range, and – most entertainingly – Gulo gulo is stated to mean “glutinous glutton,” which leads to images of wolverine-shaped loaves of bread.) The Huffington Post and Fox News (You can search it on your own; I refuse to provide a link to this outlet, even if they are covering this story), published an AP article detailing the rule and featuring commentary from various wolverine and legislative authorities, discussing both the potential reintroduction to Colorado, and the fact that the decision cannot be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions despite the fact that climate change is the primary threat. This piece has appeared in papers in Canada, across the US, in the Guardian in the UK, and as far abroad as New Zealand.
The announcement earned an article in the New York Times, and a mention on the New York Times energy blog, a full piece on Reuters (and also on Reuters’ UK site), and an article in the Los Angeles Times. In wolverine territory, the AP piece appeared in regional newspapers through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The Jackson Hole News and Guide put together a good piece that touches on the issue of the poorly-known wolverine population in Wyoming, the status of gulos in the Tetons, and possible avenues by which the Colorado reintroduction would proceed. The Great Falls Tribune has an article that highlights statements from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks regarding trapping – tentatively, and reading between the lines, it suggests that they are going to take their stand around wolf trapping, defending it against concerns about incidental take of wolverines, rather than around wolverine trapping itself, but we’ll see what happens. The Yellowstone Gate, featuring news from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, has a piece that details the times, dates, and locations for a series of public hearings on wolverine listing that are part of the process of finalizing the rule. In Idaho, the Spokesman Review has a blog post on the decision.
In Colorado, several pieces of press have appeared recently in the Summit County Voice, including a piece last week that highlighted the interconnected concerns of wolverines and the ski industry, and a piece today featuring commentary on the rule and the proposed reintroduction. Another short piece appeared at Aspen public radio, focusing primarily on the reintroduction prospects. The Durango Herald has an article about the proposed reintroduction too.
Washington state has cultivated its enthusiasm for wolverines with several pieces over the past few weeks, including this one, in the Seattle Times, discussing the rebounding wolverine population in the Cascades. This article features another video of a growling wolverine in a trap. The foamy drool in the video is pretty typical of wolverines in traps, so don’t worry that the animal is rabid.
Finally, from several weeks ago and not at all related to today’s decision, there’s a great Alaska Dispatch piece on wolverines in Chugatch State Park. If only we all lived in places where our state parks were big enough and cold enough to host a population of wolverines.
I’m sure that the press coverage will continue to snowball, and I will try to keep up. Let me know of any other pieces that I’ve failed to post. I’m out in the field for the next few days but will try to post a few thoughts here soon.