Wolverine Watchers Monitoring Paying Off Big

Defenders of Wildlife completed our fourth season of mesocarnivore monitoring in Montana’s Bitterroot valley this winter. In partnership with the Bitterroot National forest and MPG ranch, and with funding support from Patagonia, nearly 150 intrepid volunteers helped monitor 25 hair snare and motion camera sites in search of elusive wolverines, fishers, and lynx. The hard work and countless hours of monitoring resulted in identification of 29 different species of wildlife visiting our sites, tens of thousands of wildlife photos, hundreds of hairs samples collected for genetic analysis, and many glorious days on snowshoes or skis traversing Montana’s majestic winter backcountry playground. The real achievement from this year’s project was the detection of seven distinct individual wolverines at 14 different monitoring stations, along with two confirmed fishers. It will still be a while before the genetic results come back, but the preliminary results make 2018 our most successful monitoring season yet!

Wolverine Watchers embarked on an improved monitoring approach this season by enlisting the help of a few “frame mount” style monitoring stations at several high priority/historically successful sites. Frame mounts help to manipulate the target animal into exposing their underbelly to the camera which helps determine sex and whether females are lactating (which is indicative of having offspring of the year).

Based on the promising video evidence collected this winter, project co-leader Kylie Paul of MPG Ranch has been leading volunteers into the field this summer for some additive monitoring at these sites. The gamble paid off in a big way. To our great surprise and elation, our camera traps caught footage of one mother wolverine and her three kits.

This is the is the first known direct documentation of wolverine kits in the region.

“This project has been a tremendous effort over the years with hundreds of volunteers contributing to its success — it’s really rewarding to see things come to fruition through everyone’s hard work and have such exciting results to show of it. This new discovery and footage accompanies the wolverines and couple fishers that we’ve already documented this season.” Russ Talmo (from the initial press release by MPG)

- Russ

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