Present day wolverines, which emerged during the ice age, have been declining globally despite their many adaptions to live in challenging, rugged environments.
These large land-dwelling weasels evolved to scramble up trees and climb steep, snowy mountains. Wolverines’ snowshoe-like paws, heavy frost-resistant fur and powerful muscles let them thrive in some of the coldest places on Earth. Their sharp claws and strong jaws allow them to feast on carcasses and hunt species of all sizes from ground squirrels to elk.
While wolverines have been filmed hunting caribou in Norway and observed battling black bears over food in Yellowstone, they are extremely vulnerable, rarely seen and hard to study. Wolverine numbers are declining globally due to heavy trapping and predator killing by humans as well as habitat loss, climate change and various other factors. Scientists estimate there are more than 10,000 wolverines in Canada, but population densities vary a lot and numbers are difficult to estimate.
Our 20 years of synthesized research about wolverines shows that the best ways to protect remaining wolverine populations are to reduce trapping, minimize predator control pressures and connect the large blocks of intact habitat they need to survive.
Not as resilient as you might think. Wolverines are private, generally solitary, species. They are slow to reproduce and have an average of two cubs, or kits, every two to three years.
Lead Image: Wolverine numbers are declining globally due to heavy trapping and predator killing by humans, habitat loss, climate change and various other factors. Credit: Shutterstock.
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