Climate Change Threatens The Wolverine
February 2, 2013

US Officials Move To List Wolverines As Threatened Species

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Officials with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) revealed on Friday that they will be proposing Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for wolverines in the lower 48 states, various news outlets have reported.

According to the New York Times, the agency´s announcement that they are looking to list the animal as a threatened species comes after they had “repeatedly” deferred such consideration. The wolverine´s habitat has suffered in recent years due to a decrease in mountain snowfall brought about as a result of climate change, they added.

Protection for the carnivorous creature, of which there are an estimated 250 to 300 remaining in the contiguous US, has been denied on two occasions by former president George W. Bush´s administration, explained Matthew Brown of the Associated Press (AP).

“Extensive climate modeling indicates that the wolverine´s snowpack habitat will be greatly reduced and fragmented in the coming years due to climate warming, thereby threatening the species with extinction. Wolverines are dependent on areas in high mountains, near the tree-line, where conditions are cold year-round and snow cover persists well into the month of May,” the agency said Friday in a statement.

The ruling will most likely mean that wolverines will no longer be able to be targeted by trappers for their fur, but is unlikely to be used as a catalyst for the regulation of greenhouse gases that are often cited as a cause for global warming, Brown added.

Nor will the agency use the species´ status to curtail other human activities, including winter sports such as skiing and snowmobiling, infrastructure development, or timber harvesting, since they are not believed to be a serious threat to wolverines, officials from the FWS told the AP on Friday.

In order to allow those previously mentioned human activities to continue, the agency announced that they are seeking special regulations under Section 4(d) of the ESA, which allows for the FWS to institute new rules that can increase or decrease the ESA´s normal level of protections.

The agency did emphasize, however, that hunting and trapping would still be prohibited.

“This proposal would give us the flexibility to tailor the protections for the wolverine provided by the ESA to only those things that are necessary,” added Noreen Walsh, Director of the Service´s Mountain-Prairie Region. “Scientific evidence suggests that a warming climate will greatly reduce the wolverine´s snowpack habitat. We look forward to hearing from our state and local partners and members of the public and scientific community on these proposals as we work to ensure the continued recovery of the species.”

In addition, the agency announced that they were also proposing a special rule under Section 10(j) of the ESA to “facilitate potential reintroduction” of the wolverine species in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, one of the regions where the creatures once populated. That reintroduction effort is still being considered, and would be overseen by officials at the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife.

“Most wolverine habitat in the contiguous U.S. — more than 90 percent — is located on federally-owned land, with the remainder being state, private or tribally owned,” they added. “If the proposed listing rule is finalized, the Service will add the wolverine to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.”

“The listing would protect the wolverine as a threatened species in the contiguous (or lower 48) states as a distinct population segment (DPS) under the ESA. A DPS is a portion of a vertebrate species that is geographically discrete from the rest of its kind and also is significant to its survival,” the FWS statement said.