The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will determine whether wolverines deserve full protection of the Endangered Species Act by 2013. Wolverines in the contiguous U.S. were added to the Candidate species list last December because of their low numbers and the threats posed to their habitat by global warming, but continue to await federal protection. The best data available suggests there are fewer than 300 animals across the entire western U.S., with only 35 individuals—just a tenth of the population—successfully breeding.
Fewer than 300 wolverines exist in the lower-48, and the breeding portion of this population numbers just 35 individuals. (Andrew Gainer / Flickr)
“This is welcome news indeed for the wolverine,” said David Gaillard, Rocky Mountain representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “The Emergency Room waiting area was crowded when the wolverine entered last December, and we knew the species couldn’t afford to wait very long for ESA protections. But we’re hopeful that, by making a final listing decision within the next two years, the Fish and Wildlife Service will have wolverines on a path to recovery in the very near future.”
“With today’s agreement, the wolverine has a shot at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Saving the wolverine will require swift action to address global warming, which is gravely threatening spring snowpacks the wolverine needs to survive.”
“Can anyone say an animal this rare is not at serious risk of disappearing forever? Its numbers are dangerously low. Its population spans five western states, with dispersers in two others. Plus it is at direct risk from climate change, a problem that the federal government has failed to fully grapple with,” said Tim Preso, attorney for Earthjustice. “It is high time that the wolverine received long-awaited legal protections.”
“The wolverine is in dire straits,” said Dave Werntz with Conservation Northwest. “Its current plight is exactly what Congress had in mind when it passed the Endangered Species Act in order to save America’s wildlife from extinction.”
The following conservation organizations have sought to protect the wolverine under the Endangered Species Act since petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do so in the year 2000: Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Friends of the Clearwater, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Wyoming Outdoor Council.