Wolverines, Gulo gulo, are the largest terrestrial species in the mammal family of Mustelids that also includes badgers, minks, otters, and weasels. Although primarily found today in circumpolar boreal forests across northern Canada and Alaska, historically wolverines ranged along the spine of the Rocky Mountains into northern New Mexico, along the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, and into the Sierra Nevada Range of California.
Other than a small, extant population in Washington State, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana is the southern-most occupied habitat for the species in the lower 48 United States, though interest is growing in reestablishing viable populations of the species across their historic range in Colorado, Utah and California.
With frost-resistant coats and large, snowshoe-like feet, wolverines are ideally adapted to traveling across snow and are able to survive in some of the world's harshest environments. In order to eek out a living and reproduce in these stark habitats, wolverines are opportunistic eaters that rely on exceedingly large home ranges. They are able to sustain themselves with a combination of ungulates (that have died during the winter), marmots and other rodents, and when available, other food resources such as berries and amphibians.Since the cold climate regions they occupy are relatively unproductive, their population densities and reproductive rates are very low compared to other carnivores such as bears and wolves. These low numbers make wolverines especially vulnerable to habitat disturbance, habitat fragmentation, trapping and climate change.
WCS conservationists have conducted extensive field research on this little-understood wilderness species both in Canada's northern Ontario boreal forest and in the U.S. Yellowstone Rockies region.
Protecting Wolverines in the Lower 48 from Climate Change
WCS scientists are working to assess the threats posed by a warming climate and to develop a climate change resilient management adaptation strategy. Work is underway to identify likely shifts in wolverine range and location of potential climate safe refugia and to formulate a climate change adaptation strategy to protect and interlink these refugia and reduce non-climate stressors.
Assess Threats to Wolverines from Winter Recreation
WCS scientists are working to assess the threats posed by motorized winter recreation and to develop a plan to counter motorized winter recreation impacts. Our work will lead to a report assessing severity posed by motorized winter recreation and a detailed mitigation strategy.
Connectivity Conservation for Wolverines in the U.S. Northern Rockies
To ensure healthy populations of wolverines WCS scientists are working to identify essential wolverine habitat linkages to assess threats to these linkages and to develop a connectivity conservation strategy.
WCS Canada - Ontario Wolverine Project
WCS Canada is playing a key role in Ontario’s Northern Boreal region by working with partners on primary research on wolverine, a species that has demonstrated vulnerability to human development activities and for which no information in lowland boreal habitats has ever been collected. Read More >>