We used the wolverine population numbers we gained during our 2010-2016 southern Canadian Rockies/Columbia Mountains studies to analyze harvest sustainability and look at which landscape factors impact wolverine density (=number of wolverines in an area). Click here to get to the PDF for a low-res version of the paper, or go here to read it on the publisher’s website (it’s open access).

ABSTRACT

Range declines, habitat connectivity, and trapping have created conservation concern for wolverines throughout their range in North America. Previous researchers used population models and observed estimates of survival and reproduction to infer that current trapping rates limit population growth, except perhaps in the far north where trapping rates are lower. Assessing the sustainability of trapping requires demographic and abundance data that are expensive to acquire and are therefore usually only achievable for small populations, which makes generalization risky. We surveyed wolverines over a large area of southern British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, used spatial capture‐recapture models to estimate density, and calculated trapping kill rates using provincial fur harvest data. Wolverine density averaged 2 wolverines/1,000 km2 and was positively related to spring snow cover and negatively related to road density. Observed annual trapping mortality was >8.4%/year. This level of mortality is unlikely to be sustainable except in rare cases where movement rates are high among sub‐populations and sizable untrapped refuges exist. Our results suggest wolverine trapping is not sustainable because our study area was fragmented by human and natural barriers and few large refuges existed. We recommend future wolverine trapping mortality be reduced by ≥50% throughout southern British Columbia and Alberta to promote population recovery.