GYC strongly supports legislation that is introduced in the U.S. Congress, calling for protections for East Rosebud Creek, a spectacular stream that rushes off the granite shoulders of the Beartooth Mountains through undulating ranchlands. East Rosebud is a stronghold for native cutthroat trout.
HOME > Issues > Wildlife
Wolverine: Greater Yellowstone a Refuge
Latest News: On August 12, 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announced its decision (read here) to abandon proposed protections for the wolverine ignoring the best available science, including advice from the Service’s own wildlife experts, conservation groups stated. GYC had previously submitted comments supporting the efforts to list wolverines as a threatened species. In response to the decision, a coalition of nine groups including GYC filed a 60-day notice of intention to sue the Service for refusal to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act. Wolverines are an iconic species of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, with an estimated 60 wolverines currently in the GYE, Greater Yellowstone is a stronghold of high elevation climate that will be critical to the species future.
Overview: One of the most fascinating and least understood creatures found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is the fierce and elusive wolverine. Spending most of its time above 8,000 feet in remote mountain ranges, the wolverine lives at the literal top of the ecosystem. Biologists estimate there are fewer than 300 in the contiguous United States, primarily in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and north-central Washington. And with perhaps only a few dozen animals inhabiting Greater Yellowstone, it’s no wonder the wolverine is a rare sight. (See habitat map here.)
In 2008, GYC joined a group of plaintiffs represented by Earthjustice in a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) decision not to consider wolverines for protection under the Endangered Species Act. We feared that wolverines were likely becoming increasingly isolated in their mountain strongholds due to climate change and increasing human development.
As consequence of GYC’s lawsuit and other legal action, USFWS proposed to list wolverines as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, primarily because of the threat that climate change poses. Females require deep snow that persists through mid-spring for raising their young, but wolverines may lose up to two-thirds of suitable habitat by the end of this century. Without adequate spring snow cover, wolverines appear to have difficulty reproducing. Researchers estimate that the extent of areas in the western U.S. with persistent spring snowpack is likely to recede 33 percent by 2045 and 63 percent by 2099 as a result of climate change. As lower-elevation habitats warm and lose spring snowpack, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with its many high mountain ranges is likely to become a critical refuge for an animal whose numbers are limited.
In 2001, the Wildlife Conservation Society began a long-term research project focused on determining population size and health, and discerning what habitat wolverines require to survive. Since then, the project team has captured and radio tagged 38 wolverines and located seven den sites throughout Greater Yellowstone. This study, along with other studies, have shed light on the wolverine’s ability to travel astounding distances in search of food or new territory. One young male traveled more than 550 miles through Greater Yellowstone in less than six weeks. Even more incredible, in 2009 a wolverine dubbed “M56” walked from Togwotee Pass, southeast of Yellowstone, all the way to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, making it the first documented wolverine in that state since 1919.
Goals: GYC works to protect the wild and roadless mountain ranges where wolverines persist. We restore migration corridors, secure wilderness designations on public lands, and limit oil and gas development that would fragment intact wild places. Our lands work benefits all wildlife, including wolverines, especially in the face of climate change where Greater Yellowstone will continue to be seen as a wildlife refuge.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Donate now and help support our work.
Spread The Word! Tell A Friend About This Issue.
Read a paper on how climate change is likely to impact spring snow cover and wolverine denning – Copeland et al 2010.
Read a synopsis of historical wolverine range vs. current range – Aubrey et al 2007.