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Daytrip | Highway Wilding Blog

Daytrip | Highway Wilding Blog


April is here. We’re close to finishing the season for wolverine work. It’s been great to continue another winter of the noninvasive survey “trapping hairs” of wolverines, keeping our backs strong, our legs firm and clothes smelling of Gusto. This year we set out relatively few (10 sites), split between the TCH corridor and a “transition area” between our large study grid and one in Kananaskis Country. This winter the full KCtry grid is being surveyed. Next winter (2012-13) we will repeat our survey over 6000km2 in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay NP, as we did in winter 2010-11.

One of our transition sites is in the Spray River drainage. I skied into the site yesterday (Monday Apr 9) to check it for the last time and take it down. No beaver or smelly lure to carry in, so a much lighter load than before. Skiing this time of year can be tricky given the warm temperatures during mid and latter part of day, slowing one down to a laborious trudge, snow sticking to skis, and the constant pole whack on the skis. For that reason I left early, was skiing by 730am.

Start at Goat Creek trailhead and bombed down the icy trail to the Spray River junction. Record time, slightly less than 1 hr – and didn’t fall once! From the junction, our site is about 10km up the Spray drainage. Beautiful morning ski. Don Gorrie snowmobiled in day before to bring out the beaver barrel located near the hair trap site, so having a packed trail made skiing fast. I was following 2-3 day old wolverine tracks down the trail, heading the same direction I was. They went for 3-4 kilometres and most of the time were two tracks, interweaving, one on one side, one on the other, occasionally same side. By 1115am I was at the site. Took down the camera. Collected 10 hair samples (some looking wolverine-ish). Pulled down the barbed wire. Decided to ski back out since the conditions were so fast, rest of day was supposed to stay cool (+7 C) and wouldn’t likely run into sloppy crust-breaking snow. On the return, I found 2 scats along the wolverine tracks (missed them on the way in) and collected them (like hairs) for genetic analysis to confirm species, individual and gender identification. Spring like conditions on the way out. No one seen on the trail anywhere. Arrived at Goat Creek parking lot at 5pm (quitting time!).

Source: Daytrip | Highway Wilding Blog

Of Gusto and Gulos… | Highway Wilding Blog

Of Gusto and Gulos… | Highway Wilding Blog

Winter is a busy time for us. This is when a large part of our field research takes place. Here the long winters and abundant snow provides advantages to other seasons. Hungry bears are asleep, that might otherwise wreak havoc on beaver baits set out at wolverine hair traps. Snow cover reveals – magically – the movements (and behaviours!) of wildlife in the highway corridor and around culverts, which is impossible to decipher in the dry months.

Wolverines ? – Next year is another big year for us. But this winter we’re collaborating with wolverine surveys in Kananaskis Country by setting hair traps and collecting data on wolverines in a boundary region between our national park study area and theirs to the east. We’ve put out 3 hair traps so far and will set two more this month. Within our study area we’ve set a half dozen wolverine hair traps within the TCH corridor, to try and collect more information on where wolverines are crossing the highway (if at all!) and hitting some spots where we struck out last winter. In total we’ll be managing about a dozen hair traps this winter. Mirjam Barrueto is helping with this work, as is Ben Dorsey from time to time. Nikki Heim who assisted on the wolverine survey last year is running the KCtry survey as part of her Masters project at U Vic.

Much of what comes up on this blog will probably be from our wolverine work. Not that weasels and meadow voles’ running through culverts isn’t sexy, but it’s hard to compete with ‘le carcajou’. A short glossary of terms is in order that will help understand some of the jargon we use as part of the research.

Gulo Glossary (not alphabetical)

Gulo = wolverine…Gulo is the genus of the species Gulo gulo (doubly “Gulo”!).

Gusto = extremely pungent, foul-smelling trappers lure (irresistible to Gulos) that we smear on a small rag and hang high to bring wolverines into the area of a hair trap. Some people really like the smell, and the more you’re around it the more you’re convinced it has a hint of anise, along with skunk scent glands and who knows what else.

Beaver bits = while setting a hair trap, bits of frozen beaver carcass that comes raining down on you as you hold the beaver carcass 2 m high up against a tree and your “partner” hammers vigorously, spiking the carcass to the tree.

Beaver jacket = appropriate attire (usually picked up for cheap at Value Village) used to shield you from the shower of beaver bits….

Buggers = coined by Barb Bertch…these are baits (beavers) that are frozen into a misshaped mass of …beaver…and don’t lie flush against the hanging tree.

Wolveriners (pronounced: wol – ve – reeners) = that’s us! And anyone that joins us.

Wolverining = that’s where we go when we set up a hair trap.

Wolverine party truck = our smelly work vehicle.

Prayer flag = Gusto-smeared rag hung high from a tree near the hair trap site.

More vocabulary to come…

Hope you like the website…

Don’t forget to check out videos that award-winning filmmaker Leanne Allison has created.

Also our Wolverine website where you can record with an online mapping tool observations of wolverines or their tracks you come across.

We’ll also be posting photos from our ‘camera traps’ that take you from the comfort of your internet connection to backcountry ski trails and snowladen glades full of wolverine tracks and wanderings.

We’ll try to keep this dynamic and full of surprises…


Source: Of Gusto and Gulos… | Highway Wilding Blog


Dr. Clevenger to speak on CBC Radio’s The Eyeopener

Dr. Clevenger to speak on CBC Radio’s The Eyeopener

Dr. Tony Clevenger will be speaking on Calgary’s CBC Radio program “The Eyeopener” at approximately 7:20am on Tuesday, December 13. Be sure to tune in to learn about the first use of a wildlife overpass by a wolverine and the importance of highway crossing structures for wolverine and other animals.

Wolverines featured in Globe & Mail article

Wolverines featured in Globe & Mail article

IMG_0215-BATH2-1024x576We are pleased to share that Bruce Kirkby has written an excellent article for the Globe and Mail about wolverine, the challenges to their survival, and the researchers who are studying them including Dr. Tony Clevenger. The article also features several Highway Wilding images and a link to one of the Highway Wilding research videos created by film maker Leanne Allison. Please enjoy and share this story with others:

A hearty thank you for your support and assistance last winter…

A hearty thank you for your support and assistance last winter…

We would like to thank the following people for their support and generous assistance with our wolverine research during the winter of 2010-2011:

  • Don Gorrie
  • Cathy Gill
  • Jim Zettel
  • Reg Bunyan
  • Dan Rafla
  • Andrea Kortello
  • Steve Bertollo
  • Reg Hawryluk
  • Cal Sime
  • Wayne Shibley
  • Jon Pedlar and Alberta Snow Survey
  • Bill Abercrombie (Animal Damage Control)
  • Amiskwi Lodge
  • Lake O’Hara Lodge (Bruce Millar)

Parks Canada staff:

  • Marc Ledwidge
  • Brian Webster
  • Trevor Kinley
  • Ron Leblanc
  • Blair Fyten
  • Lake Louise Tracksetters
  • Lisa Paulson
  • Brad White

Wolverine Watch Volunteers:

  • Adam Ford
  • Barb Sobota
  • Bob Toothill
  • Earl Marsh
  • Gord Gilbertson
  • Heather Milligan
  • Ian Pengelly
  • Jeff Boyd
  • Jenn Redvers
  • Jenny Earle
  • Marg Gmoser
  • Rachel Darvill
  • Sadie Parr
  • Tim Johnson

Thanks for reporting your wolverine observations!

Thanks for reporting your wolverine observations!

We would like to thank everyone who has been kindly sending along their wolverine observations.  Please keep those observations coming!  You can enter your observation through our online mapping tool ( or by sending an email to including as many details as possible regarding your sighting or observation including: date, time, type of observation and any supporting information. For example, if you saw a wolverine you could report: direction of wolverine’s travel, GPS coordinates of the observation or your approximate geographic location (e.g., Bow Summit), and behaviour of the animal (e.g., running, walking, feeding, etc.). If you saw a track you could report the direction of the wolverine’s travel, size of track, GPS coordinates of observation or approximate geographic location, etc. If you have any photos of wolverine, tracks or scat to share with us, please send them along as well.

We recently received a wolverine observation in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park from David Bynoe ( Check out these photos of this wolverine’s incredible path up a steep slope.  Thanks to David for sharing these photos with us.Tracks3_DBynoetracks1_DBynoe-1024x541

A note to willing volunteers who didn’t get out with us this winter…

A note to willing volunteers who didn’t get out with us this winter…


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: 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


Nikki Heim

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