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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Our toughest and most endangered carnivore, the Wolverine is about to get a 2nd chance at getting enough "room to roam" so that it can have some chance at making a viable comeback in the USA............A Federal Judge has ordered the USFW Service to move forward with designating the 300 known Wolverines in the USA as an Endangered Species.........."That means that the elusive, ferocious Gulo gulo is once again poised to become the first animal in the contiguous states to receive federal protections because of climate change"..........................This will involve drawing up a management plan for it's restoration................This would likely involve creating protected habitat for a carnivore that needs deep and persistent snowpack into the early Spring so that the female of the species can build a nest under the ice pack to birth her young............"Once her kits are weaned, the lingering snow serves as a refrigerator: wolverines sometimes cache meat in snowbanks so they don’t have to stray far from the safety of their dens to hunt or scavenge"....................Will Global warming retard the benefits of the critical habitat that hopefully will be created for the Wolverine?

After Court Ruling, Wildlife Advocates Advance Efforts to Protect Wolverines

A federal court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it decided not to protect the wolverine. (JohnDPorter/iStockphoto)

A federal court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it decided not to protect the wolverine. (JohnDPorter/iStockphoto)
April 18, 2016
CHEYENNE, Wy. - Conservation groups are doubling down on efforts to protect wolverines after a court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when the agency decided not to protect the famously tough predator.

Managing attorney Tim Preso with Earthjustice says the ruling affirms the original findings by the agency's own scientists that climate change and genetic isolation threaten the species.

"But after a campaign of opposition by affected state governments, the Fish and Wildlife Service backed down and withdrew its proposal to protect the species," says Preso.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen addressed the political pressure brought by states, including Wyoming, noting the listing decision involved "climate science, and climate science evokes strong reactions."

Unless an appeal is filed, the order means the agency must make a new listing decision. Conservation groups say they'll monitor the agency to make sure wolverines get the protections they need.

Caroline Byrd, executive director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, says after more than a century of trapping and habitat loss, wolverines in the lower 48 have been reduced to small, fragmented populations in a handful of mountain states.

She says wolverines can't reproduce without access to deep and persistent snow fields where mothers build their dens.

"We have those in the Northern Rockies, we have them in the greater Yellowstone, and they will persist on into the future," says Byrd. "But we have fewer of them because of climate change, because of our warming climate."

Byrd praised the court's decision and says the increasingly rare and elusive animal represents the wildness that is still alive today in Greater Yellowstone.

Only 300 or so wolverines are left in the Northern Rockies and North Cascades

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Science trumps politics for wolverines

A court ruling may force wolverines onto the endangered species list, and open the door for other animals threatened by climate change

In late winter, when the high mountains of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are buried in snow, female wolverines in hidden dens give birth to one or two pure white kits. Scientists suspect the snow helps insulate the kits and protect them from predators like wolves, which might explain why mama wolverines often choose north-facing slopes where snowpack lasts longer. Later, when the kits are weaned, the lingering snow serves as a refrigerator: wolverines sometimes cache meat in snowbanks so they don’t have to stray far from the safety of their dens to hunt or scavenge.  
Though wolverines’ dependence on snow isn’t fully understood, researchers in 2010 concluded that the animals only reproduce where there’s deep, long-lasting snow. The following year, scientists found that habitat with that kind of snow cover is expected to shrink by 31 percent in the next three decades. So in 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the 300 or so wolverines in the Northern Rockies to the endangered species list. They would’ve been the first species in the Lower 48 declared legally endangered because of climate change. 
But then regional director Noreen Walsh abruptly changed course. Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe backed up her decision not to list wolverines, citing too many uncertainties in the scientific literature. So some 20 environmental groups, including the Western Environmental Law Center, sued. 
Now, a federal court has ruled in their favor. On April 4, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen declared that Fish and Wildlife’s refusal to list wolverines as threatened or endangered was “arbitrary and capricious,” and is forcing the agency to reassess. That means that the elusive, ferocious Gulo gulo is once again poised to become the first animal in the contiguous states to receive federal protections because of climate change. 

Wolverines are again poised to become the first species in the Lower 48 added to the Endangered Species List because of threats from climate change.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The decision is significant, says Western Environmental Law Center staff attorney Matthew Bishop, because it suggests that climate change’s impact doesn’t have to be cut-and-dry to prompt protection. When polar bears became the first species thrust onto the endangered species list because of a warming planet in 2008, there was an obvious smoking gun — bears drowning and dying from starvation because thin sea ice limited their ability to hunt seals.
Wolverine researchers may never be able to produce that kind of clear evidence — the animals are notoriously reclusive and hard to study, and the effects of diminished snowpack will probably be less dramatic. Plus, since scientists don’t agree on exactly why wolverines require snow for reproduction, predicting the precise impact of its loss is difficult. But Christensen says this doesn’t matter. “If ever there was a species for which conservation depends on foregoing absolute certainty, it is the wolverine,” he wrote in his 85-page order. 
The decision could open the door to listing for other animals that are predicted to be impacted by climate change but aren’t yet experiencing its effects. Pikas, for instance. Corals. Bishop thinks there are hundreds of candidates. As for wolverines, he believes the decision will lead to a threatened listing, though the timeframe is still unclear. (Threatened species aren't yet endangered but are likely to become so. They still receive protections under the Endangered Species Act.) 
But given that the Endangered Species Act can’t limit global greenhouse gas emissions, how can it protect the wolverine from climate change? 
One solution could be to reintroduce the animal to places where it’s been extirpated, like the Sierra Nevada or Colorado Rockies. Parts of those high-altitude mountain ranges are expected to be spared the worst effects of a warming planet, so restoring wolverine populations there could help the species as a whole survive. Such reintroductions were part of Fish and Wildlife’s 2013 proposal, and could well be part of a future recovery plan. Other solutions include limiting trapping, snowmobiling and other winter recreation in denning habitat. 
But Wyoming, Montana and Idaho oppose listing the wolverine for precisely those reasons. Like many Western states, they see an ESA listing — even for an animal that lives mostly above 8,000 feet — as detrimental to economic development
Yet by law, endangered species decisions are supposed to be about science, not politics or economics. Christensen suspects politics prompted Noreen Walsh’s perplexing 180-degree reversal. “Why did the Service make the decision [to not list the wolverine]?” he asked. “Based on the record, the Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of Western states.”
Bishop has been working in endangered species law for 17 years, and agrees that political influence has increasingly overshadowed science of late. Other animals, like Sonoran desert tortoises have been denied protection despite scientific evidence suggesting it’s warranted. Bishop can only guess politics are at play — which is why he thinks Christensen’s decision was a win for not just wolverines, but for other species living on the brink, too.  

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