"If wolverines have a strategy, it's this: go hard, and high, and steep, and never back down, not even from the biggest grizzly, and least of all from a mountain.
Climb everything: trees, cliffs, avalanche chutes, summits. Eat everybody: alive, dead, long-dead, moose, mouse, fox, frog, its still-warm heart or frozen bones.
Which is why I think it's fair to say, there's wild, and then there's wolverine."
This is how Doug Chadwick sums up the elusive wolverine in his new book,"The Wolverine Way", after seven years of volunteering on the Glacier Wolverine Project, where he helped Forest Service biologists Jeff Copeland and Rick Yates as they captured, radio-tagged, tracked, and ultimately, learned more about these mysterious animals.
"With unusually large feet that spread their weight, wolverines move much more easily over snow than competitors or prey, while 2-inch long claws serve as crampons on ice and frozen crusts. All this results in a mammal so tied to a cold climate with deep, lingering snow that it becomes one of the most vulnerable animals on the planet in an age of global warming," writes Doug Chadwick.
The wolverine's vulnerability in an era of changing climate is even more of a concern given their very low numbers in the continental United States: somewhere between 220 and 400 are believed to inhabit the high country of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, with only 40-50 individuals found in Glacier National Park's 1,500 square miles.
So what can we do to try to ensure the continued survival of wolverines?
Continuing to try to understand the biology and behavior of the species, and identifying and protecting corridors between groups of wolverines, are important.
As is trying to address climate change's root causes, both here in Montana and through national policy changes.
To learn more about what you can do to adapt your own activities, click here.
Photo at top of page: iStock.