Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) have demonstrated that wolverines are dependent upon persistent spring snow for denning. This factor is critical in determining the future extent and survival of wolverine populations. To build on this understanding, the National Forest System and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) provided funding for RMRS to work with the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group to predict where suitable snow might exist for wolverine in the future.
Research results are used in wolverine reintroduction efforts and by the USFWS as they examine the wolverine as a candidate for listing as a threatened or endangered species. Colorado and California, places where wolverines were eliminated in the last century, are now seen as suitable sites for reintroduction based on predicted climate futures and wolverine needs. It is important to get the reintroduction efforts correct the first time, as there are few wolverine populations to draw from and the process is expensive.
RMRS researchers have found ways to apply models derived from current genetic patterns to future landscapes to inform land management decisions on current and likely future corridor locations. The researchers have partnered with state agencies and private organizations to provide maps identifying corridor locations in order to optimize wolverine population connectivity. While current efforts are focused on wolverines, these newly developed tools can be applied to a variety of organisms to inform their potential future in a changing climate.