Seattle City Light Helping Researchers Study Wolverines

City Light is supporting a research study of the habitat and range of wolverines in the North Cascades, and preliminary results show that the feisty critters like to travel very far indeed.

City Light is supporting a research study of the habitat and range of wolverines in the North Cascades, and preliminary results show that the feisty critters like to travel very far indeed.

A baited camera captured this image of a wolverine in the North Cascades. Photo by Keith Aubry, U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Since 2006, the joint U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and B.C. Ministry of Environment study has equipped seven wolverines with transmitters to determine home ranges and habitat use patterns. City Light is supporting the project as part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project Wildlife Research Program.

Besides the radio and satellite locator tags, researchers are also using baited motion-activated cameras throughout the region to detect unmarked animals. 

The study has found wolverines to the east of Ross Lake and in the Lake Chelan, Stehekin River, and Twisp River areas on the east side of the Cascades. A juvenile female equipped with a transmitter left a trap site area in the upper Twisp River drainage, then moved 500 kilometers into southern B.C., up onto the Thompson Plateau, around the city of Kamloops, ending up in the Lillooet Range at the southern extent of the British Columbia Coast Range. This could be the longest recorded movement by a North American female wolverine.

One of the wolverines tagged with a tracking device.

On Dec. 13, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the wolverine is to be designated a Candidate for Endangered Species Protection. Research indicates that warmer summer temperatures and less snowpack during the next century will reduce the areas where wolverines can dig snow dens and tunnels, possibly forcing them into higher elevations.