This 2016 photo from a remote camera shows a mountain wolverine in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee, California. (Chris Stermer/California Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

This 2016 photo from a remote camera shows a mountain wolverine in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee, California. (Chris Stermer/California Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

US officials: Climate change not a threat to rare wolverine

Research indicates there will be enough snow in the mountains for them despite warming temperatures.

By Matthew Brown / Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — U.S. wildlife officials are withdrawing proposed protections for the snow-loving wolverine after determining the rare and elusive predator is not as threatened by climate change as once thought.

Details on the decision were obtained by The Associated Press in advance of an announcement Thursday.

A federal judge four years ago had blocked an attempt to withdraw protections that were first proposed in 2010, pointing to evidence from government scientists that wolverines were “squarely in the path of climate change.”

But years of additional research suggest the animals’ prevalence is expanding, not contracting, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials said. And they predict that enough snow will persist at high elevations for wolverines to den in mountain snowfields each spring despite warming temperatures.

Wildlife advocates said they are likely to challenge the move in court.

“They are putting the wolverine on the path to extinction,” said Andrea Zaccardi with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Wolverines, also known as “mountain devils,” were wiped out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s following unregulated trapping and poisoning campaigns. They’re slowly clawing their way back in some areas, said Justin Shoemaker, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Government biologists no longer consider the relatively few wolverines in the Lower 48 states to be an isolated population, instead saying they are linked to a much larger population in Canada

“Wolverines have come back down from Canada and they are repopulating these areas in the Lower 48 that they historically occupied,” Shoemaker said. “There’s going to be significant areas of snow pack in the spring at the time they would need it and the levels they would need it.”

Wildlife officials have previously estimated that 250 to 300 wolverines survive in remote areas of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington state. The animals in recent years also have been documented in California, Utah, Colorado and Oregon.

A newly released government assessment of the species status does not provide an updated population estimate.

The animals need immense expanses of wild land to survive, with home ranges for adult male wolverines covering as much as 610 square miles (1,580 square kilometers), according to a study in central Idaho.

Wildlife advocates have sought since the early 1990s to protect the animals and alleged political meddling in the government’s decision-making process thwarted those efforts. Tim Preso with the environmental law firm Earthjustice said the latest decision fits in with a pattern of the Trump administration downplaying the threat of climate change.

Agency officials rejected the notion of any interference in their scientific deliberations.

“This was an analysis that was done by the scientists in the field looking at the best available information,” said Jodi Bush, Montana project leader for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond. (University of Washington)
UW climate expert: We are moving into uncharted territory

State climatologist says the declining snowpack threatens water supplies as population grows.

Health care workers and other staff walk out of Harborview Medical Center, a part of UW Medicine, during a noon hour break in a demonstration asking management to do more to protect staff, patients and the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, May 14, 2020, in Seattle.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Harborview: COVID outbreak killed a patient, infected staff

Ten staffers at the Seattle hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, right, speaks, Monday, July 13, 2020, during a news conference at City Hall in Seattle. Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best, looking on at left, were critical of a plan backed by several city council members that seeks to cut the police department's budget by 50 percent. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Police investigate threats, messages against Seattle mayor

Homophobic slurs and hateful messages were left outside the home of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Seattle police depart at highest numbers in years

The 110 officers leaving marks the highest total since at least 2012.

Washington Supreme Court reverses 1960 cemetery decision

The old, already illegal rule allowed cemeteries to discriminate on the basis of race.

Seattle-area man is 3rd in U.S. with 2nd confirmed COVID case

The patient, in his 60s, tested positive in early March and got sick against nearly 5 months later.

Washington unemployment rate drops to 7.8%

Most job growth occurred in leisure and hospitality, construction and other services.

Mountlake Terrace woman accused of hiring men to kill her ex

Police say there may be a financial motive behind the murder-for-hire plan involving “quite a bit of money.”

REMOVES REFERENCE TO NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO DIED FROM COVID-19 - State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy speaks to the media about the coronavirus outbreak, as Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler looks on, Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Olympia, Wash.  Kriedler has issued an order requiring health insurers in the state to not charge copays or deductibles for people who require testing for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Washington’s top public health officer to leave position

Dr. Kathy Lofy says she plans to focus on her own health and to connect with friends and family.

Inslee: 5 Washington counties can relax virus restrictions

There has been a “leveling out” of coronavirus risk between the five counties and the rest of the state.

Washington Lt. Gov.-elect Cyrus Habib, right, holds the gavel as he stands at the Senate chamber dais next to Senate Counsel Jeannie Gorrell, left, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, during a practice session to test technical equipment in Olympia, Wash. Habib, who will preside over the Senate, will be Washington's first blind lieutenant governor, and the Senate has undergone a makeover that incorporates Braille into that chamber's floor sessions that will allow Habib to know by the touch of his finger which lawmaker is seeking to be recognized to speak. Habib is replacing Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who is retiring. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Lt. Gov. Habib has moved to California, isn’t drawing salary

He has been attending seminary school to become a priest. His term expires after this year.

FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2018, file photo, the logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  Twitter is imposing new rules, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020,  ahead of the U.S. presidential election, prohibiting people,  including candidates, from claiming an election win before it is called by either state election officials or two authoritative, national news outlets. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Twitter to pay $100,000 over Washington campaign violations

The company failed to maintain records related to ads that ran from 2012 through 2019.