And Logan isn’t the only wolverine who is in the spotlight these days!
For the third consecutive year, Defenders of Wildlife has teamed up with wildlife biologists from the Bitterroot National Forest to monitor multiple species of mesocarnivores (medium sized meat eaters like lynx, fishers, martens, and wolverines) in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana. Known as the Wolverine Watchers program, our small army of volunteers has run 23 monitoring stations during the winter field season. These 130 citizen scientists, including many diehards on their third year of participation, have been gathering data from motion cameras and genetic samples from hair snares on these elusive forest dwellers.
This project harnesses the collective interest of agencies, conservation organizations and local volunteers to learn more about these rare species and their habitat to inform management decisions and contribute toward recovery. Recent significant decreases in Forest Service funding makes wildlife monitoring even more challenging. Our goal is to provide valuable data to Bitterroot National Forest officials and to other researchers, managers and conservationists. This as a prime example of citizen science contributing valuable and cost-effective data and has proven the use of citizen science in mesocarnivore monitoring is possible and appropriate.
What’s New This Year
We have started incorporating video cameras at some of the known wolverine sites. The results of the video footage are pretty amazing. Click on the photo to watch one of our favorites wolverines making its film debut.
This little guy or gal, affectionately referred to as “Chinstrap” due to the unique blaze markings under its jaw, is one of our repeat visitors the past 2 years. Even though it sounds like an X-Men character, staff have yet to been able to determine Chinstrap’s sex, but he or she has a tenacity for our bait sites and appears to enjoy the limelight.
Check out our Flickr feed to see more action shots of wolverines from our program!
Behind the Scenes!
Finding wolverines and other critters visiting our sites is exciting, even though the work isn’t always glamorous. Some of us (me to be exact) have the task of rounding up enough bait for 23 stations.
That’s roughly 100 chunks of bait per season. In the fall, at the beginning of the project, that means dumpster diving at the butcher shops during hunting season and in the winter, near the end of the project, locating roadkill and cutting it into bait-size chunks. Though a little unsavory, it’s nice to know that roadkill is being put to good use.
The Bitterroot National Forest and Defenders have now identified ten wolverines in our Bitterroot National Forest survey area (plus 2 others in Idaho). With scientists estimating the continental US population at approximately 300 individuals, this project has potentially identified 3% of the entire population, which is exciting considering the species occurs in low densities and many populations appear to be relatively small and isolated.
With positive results coming from this citizen science project, a similar effort is underway by Defenders’ staff in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. This project is made possible in part by funding from Patagonia’s Environmental Grants Team and by you, our supporters.
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