On August 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) elected not to list the wolverine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Although the animal, the largest member of the weasel family, was nearly extirpated by trapping and hunting in the early 20th century, science-based state-level management has brought the animal's numbers back to a much more sustainable level.
Interestingly, the original proposal to list these animals as threatened was not based on their population size, but on speculation about how their numbers may be affected in the future by climate change. Wolverines rely heavily on very deep snow in order to build their dens, so if snow levels were lower in the future, the thinking went, the wolverine's population could decline.
In the end, the USFWS withdrew the proposal, keeping the wolverine off the Endangered Species List. This decision has proven somewhat controversial, leading the wildlife directors of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana (where wolverines may be found in the United States), to state in an opinion letter: "For the record, our states opposed the Service's original recommendation to list wolverines based on our concerns about listing a species that is at its highest population level in the past 80-100 years...and still increasing."
To read the rest of the wildlife directors' letter, click here.
To learn more about the wolverine, click here.
Photo Courtesy USFWS