July 15, 2011

Dear Wolverine Watch Volunteers:

Thank you for your interest in volunteering for Wolverine Watch this winter.  We had limited volunteer positions and were unable to use your generous offer of assistance.  However, now that the wolverine survey season for 2010/2011 has been completed we wanted to share some of our experiences and results with you.

Our first sampling season was a success!  This winter, our small research team was able to set up a total of 48 hair trap sites in Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks and in the Columbia Valley near Golden, British Columbia.  The total distance travelled by our team was over 2000kms during the four-month period.

The start of the season was challenging.  We skied up the long Rocky Mountain valley bottoms, crossed over vast frozen lakes, and peaked over high mountain passes.  In sun and storms we carried heavy packs across deep hollow snow-packs enduring brutally cold temperatures dropping to below 30 degrees Celsius.

As the winter progressed our hardiness improved in sync with the stabilizing snow pack and the warming weather.  All season we kept warm with laughter and the exiting hopes of finding wolverine, knowing that the wolverine was now in its winter element.  Tracks began to move across the landscape as far as the eye could see – and straight to our bait sites!!

Absence of the carcass we had hung a month before and long dark-coloured guard hairs intertwined between the barbs that had been wrapped around the trunk of the tree were good indications that a wolverine has visited the site.  And our camera images provided proof of our assumptions.

Wolverine_image_blog-286x300The visitation rate to the hair trap sites increased during the three sampling sessions.  Session one had a percent visitation rate of 36% (17 of 47 sites), 71% of the sites (34 of 48 sites) were visited in session two, while 81% (38 of 47 sites) of the sites were visited by wolverine during the third and final session.

Quick Results:

  • 85% of the total sites were visited (41 out of 48 sites) at least once during the winter.
  • 91% of the national parks sites (39 out of 43 sites) were visited at least once during the winter.
  • Of the 41 sites visited by wolverines, 7 (17%) were visited only one time, 19 (46%) were visited twice, and 15 (37%) sites were visited all three sampling sessions.

Wolverine_image_blog_2-225x300More than 850 hair samples were collected during the three sampling sessions.  Not all samples were from wolverines since we collected all hair samples found at the hair traps. We expect to have results back from the genetics lab in the fall. Our team has already begun a pool to determine who can guess how many different wolverines were out there visiting our traps this winter!

We apologize that we were not able to have your participation this year but the wolverine project will be conducting another field season during the winter of 2012/2013 and we would love to have your help!

Please visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/highwaywilding to view and share five short videos about the research project. The videos discuss the need for this research, give you a real sense as to what the field work entails and showcases some of the animals that visited our sites this winter.  Also, please continue to check out our website atwww.wolverinewatch.org.


Nikki Heim

On behalf of the wolverine team: Tony Clevenger, Ben Dorsey, Barb Bertch, Jen Reimer, and Alex Taylor.