Warmer than average temperatures, paired with high winds, created serious avalanche risks throughout Bonner and Boundary counties last weekend. Once again, for the safety of our crews, most of our camera station set-ups have been delayed. Hopefully conditions will stabilize more over this week, as crews are picking up gear this week with plans to head out to their plots when conditions become safe again.
We now have 12 of our 20 stations set-up, and are starting to get excited about the data we hope is piling up on those camera cards! Who might we see?
This week’s blog will honor the Wolverine as our first in a small series of “Cool Carnivores Critters.”
Have you ever seen a wild Wolverine? Even the most avid of us hikers, who spend more of our time out-of-doors than indoors, have probably not chanced more than one visual encounter with this seemingly mysterious critter. This is due in part to their large home ranges and solitary nature.
In Idaho, an adult male home range has been estimated at 588 square miles, with female ranges being 148 square miles, the largest ranges for wolverines in the US. Compare this to the American Black bear, a much larger critter (with similar reproductive rates) with home ranges on the scale of 8-60 square miles!
Males allow several females within their home ranges, although females often allow overlap only for their kin. The home range requirements for the species consist of areas that are highly undisturbed and include presence of high-elevation, snow-loaded environments for reproduction.
A positive correlation has been sited for this species in environments that include large downed debris, snags, large roadless tracts of land, low to no human interaction, cirque basins for denning, and limited motorized vehicle use. Wolverines in Idaho, similar to other areas of the continent, utilize areas of subalpine and alpine environments. Global warming is likely affecting their ranges here, as well as other areas in the continental United States.
Females bear young when they reach maturity, approximately around 2-3 years of age. They give birth to a litter of 2-3 youth every 2-3 years, depending on their age and health. Offspring stay with their mothers for an average of two years. Males begin their reproductive cycles around 2 years of age. In Idaho, they are reported to have a survival rate of 80%.
Wolverines are omnivores and rely largely on ungulate carrion in the winter, making predators such as the grey wolf important to their survival. They also feed on squirrel, fox, marten, other wolverines, rodents, and even berries and plants in the summer. They are largely opportunistic.
Given this information, it is easy to see how our wilderness areas in Idaho and Montana provide a necessary refuge for these ecologically important critters. Our work this winter and in the seasons previous provide an excellent launching point for preservation of this reclusive yet gorgeous creature. The preservation of landscapes such as the Scotchman Peaks helps to ensure the survival of the Wolverine.
Thank you for being a part of this effort (and the wolverines thank you , too!).