SciSun: High Plains Drifter   Leave a comment

Among of the forested areas in the world, some of the deepest, densest, most foresty-forest is the Boreal (in some parts of the world called the Tiaga). This is the forest of tall pines and thick firs; dark-green shrubs covered in berries; and free-flowing streams gurgling among grassy meadows. But it’s not only the fir trees that are thick in this mountain terrain; the fur of wildlife that live in this habitat has to be thick, too, because another ingredient to this unique environment is harsh, cold winters with heavy and long-lasting snowfalls. The native wildlife – from moose to bears to forest-living owls – must be prepared not only to enjoy the lush green summers, but also survive the harsh winters when there is little food, and shelter is anywhere you can find protection from the snow.

One of the most respected animals of this forest-world is the Wolverine (Gulo gulo), generally a solitary individual, who claims a territory of hundreds of square miles, and is usually found only in scattered populations. It’s not that Wolvie doesn’t like company…well, actually it is. Wolverines aren’t the life of the party, they prefer to be alone and if anyone or anything comes into their territory – or even if they encounter other animals within that animals’ territory – they’re likely to stand their ground and fight just because they don’t want anyone in their face. Wolverines have been known to stand up to bears; wolves; and probably (if they had the opportunity), any Saber-tooth that came their way. You might say wolverine is super-heroic. Of course the wolverine doesn’t win all of these fights – he’s about three feet long, less than fifty pounds and low-to-the-ground (don’t call him short!!), so that’s not much when he’s up against a bear – but in every encounter he gives it his all and often the opponent runs away because he didn’t realize what a fierce fighter Wolvie can be.

But the wolverine is an extremely important part of the Boreal forest. When more than half of the year is covered in snow and the temperature is below zero, some animals don’t make it. When they die, their bodies could become hosts to disease, contaminate water sources, and attract unwanted pests. Wolverine is a generalist carnivore, meaning it will eat any meat or animal product it comes across – if that means hunting field mice, or stealing eggs, or chewing on the bones of a dead elk. In fact one of the reasons the wolverine is so tough and muscular, is he needs all that strength to pull apart bones from skin, and dig out animal remains from mud and snow, and fight off other animals who could try to steal his meal.

At one time the wolverine lived throughout the high mountains and plains of North America, from Alaska as far south as Arizona and New Mexico. Today, the North American population can usually only be found in the far northern continental United States; and in Canada and Alaska where there are fewer and fewer of them reported every year. Recently, hikers in California had claimed to see a wolverine, but no one believed them until photos from a wildlife research camera deep in the forest confirmed that there is, at least one, wolverine in the California Sierra. However, due to changing climate and human pressures, it’s unknown if this one animal can survive, or if any other wolverines could re-establish themselves in their historic homes.

Wolverine NatGeo Alaska stock images

“Snarly attitude? Check. Sweptback hair? Check. Cool retractable claws? I WISH!!”

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the part of the US Government responsible for all wildlife in the United States, is considering requesting the Wolverine be listed as a threatened species and they want to know your thoughts and support for this deep-forest wanderer. From February 4 – May 6 the USFWS is accepting public comments in favor of listing the wolverine as a protected species.

Click here to send a message to the US Fish and Wildlife service, in your support for Wolverines! Your message will become part of the Official Register of comments (Whoo-Hoo! Is that anything like the Permanent Record that teachers are always talking about?).  The USFWS researchers need to know there are people interested in protecting the wolverine, and its environment. Your note doesn’t have to be long; just say what you believe, be thoughtful, and don’t be rude or bossy. No one likes a bossy wolverine-supporter.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

There are only about 300 wolverines left in the continuous United States;

Due to climate change wolverines could lose almost two-thirds of their habitat over the next decades;

Wolverines should not be further threatened with trapping, hunting, or human pressures on their already stressed population;

USFWS protection will allow scientists the time to research wolverines and their environment, and find ways to help them survive the future;

Education and information about wolverines should be increased so people understand the species is an important member of its native mountain environments, and not a danger to humans.

Of course, one of the main reasons the wolverine, other species, and their homes are threatened is due to our world becoming hotter and hotter. It may not seem that way when you look outside and see a snow-covered wonderland, but changing weather – like more rain, ice and snow than you remember in past years – is all part of the global climate puzzle. Many scientists believe this global warming greenhouse effect is due to human activities like auto exhaust, factory pollution, burning fossil fuels, and clearing land of natural vegetation. All this has happened over the past three or four generations – and it seems to be getting worse in the past few decades – so it’s not like we can make everything better in just a few years. But by making smart choices like walking or riding a bike rather than driving; turn off and unplug electronics when you’re not using them; and keeping your house a few degrees colder in the winter, and a few degrees warmer in the summer, are all actions that make a difference. Each one of us has the power to, literally, change the world for the better!

And remember, the US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to hear from you! When you show your support for our friend the Wolverine, ‘X’ marks the spot.


Michonne Says:  Maybe wolverines would be nicer if they didn’t eat dead things. That can’t be good for you. Marmots are almost always nice and we eat flowers and berries and grass. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Posted February 17, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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