The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is considered a vulnerable species throughout its range. The current status of wolverine populations are not known, due to the elusive nature of these animals. Attempts are being made by various studies, many through the Wolverine Foundation, to not only obtain an accurate population count but also to study how wolverine populations are affected by human influences such as logging, trapping, and resource development.
Researchers are currently attempting to get an accurate count of wolverine populations in southeast Alaska. Their study aims to discover which habitats are preferred by reproductive females and to track the movement of females, breeding males and offspring. They are also investigating whether viable populations are dependent on the survival of reproductive females that can be adversely affected by human disturbance.
This project will use a variety of techniques to help determine wolverine populations in the area, including 1) live trapping, radio collaring, and tracking of individual wolverines, 2) infra-red camera capture and identification of wolverines in the area, 3) possible DNA sampling from hair snares, and 4) aerial tracking. A pilot study showed that twice as many wolverines were identified with the cameras than were caught and collared in the traps, indicating that using many cameras is essential to get an accurate population count.
The Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant Program provided funding to this project to purchase camera traps. Staff champions for this project are Deb Arndt, Animal Health Zookeeper and Amanda Ista, Northern Trail Zookeeper.