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Study gauges the response of wolverines to winter recreation

Date: October 14, 2016

Researchers use a novel approach to track movements of both wolverines and snowmobilers, back-country skiers, and other recreationists in the same high-use winter areas


Remote camera captures a wolverine as it approaches a trap.
Remote camera captures a wolverine as it approaches a trap.
Wolverines are rare carnivores that occupy deep-snow, high-elevation environments in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington. They occur at low densities across their range, and are difficult to study. Current studies in Central Idaho employ GPS technology to evaluate the impacts of winter recreationists on wolverines movements, reproduction, behavior, and resource-use, especially during denning. Forest Service scientists and their research partners use a novel approach that includes trapping and fitting wolverines with GPS collars that accurately plot their movements in areas of high winter recreation. Then, on a volunteer basis, snowmobilers, back-country skiers, and other recreationists carry GPS units in the same areas used by wolverines.

Resulting data show how wolverines respond to winter recreation in terms of their movements, behaviors, and resource-use. This provides a solid scientific basis for recreation management in areas occupied by wolverines. Research is also producing spatial models that describe how wolverines and winter recreationists coexist across broad landscapes.

Investigations on how wolverines respond to winter recreation when denning indicate that wolverines may be more tolerant to recreation than previously believed when selecting home ranges. Many rural communities throughout the western U.S. depend on revenues from winter recreation. These tourist dollars are enormously important to local economies and life-styles.

In addition, wolverines are currently under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for federal listing. That agency identified winter recreation as a potentially important listing consideration for wolverines. The research findings incorporate the conservation requirements of wolverine, as well as the desires of winter-recreationists.

Maps, reports, and publications from this research are available through Round River Conservation Studies.

Featured Publications

Copeland, Jeffrey P. ; Peek, James M. ; Groves, Craig R. ; Melquist, Wayne E. ; McKelvey, Kevin S. ; McDaniel, Gregory W. ; Long, Clinton D. ; Harris, Charles E. , 2007


Principal Investigators: 
Principal Investigators - External: 
Kimberly Heinemeyer - Round River Conservation Studies
Forest Service Partners: 
Payette, Boise, Sawtooth and Caribou-Targhee National Forests
External Partners: 
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Round River Conservation Studies
Snowmobile industry
South Central Idaho Resource Advisory Committee
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
University of Montana
Wolverine Foundation