Effects of transportation infrastructure on wolverine dispersal, gene flow and population connectivity geography – Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks and the Columbia Valley, British Columbia
Duration – 2010-2013
Canada’s Rocky Mountains are among the continent’s last remaining undisturbed natural areas and provides a critical trans-boundary linkage with the United States. Maintaining landscape connectivity throughout the ecoregion is a conservation strategy to mitigate effects of climate change and habitat fragmentation.
The Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) in the Canadian Rocky Mountains has long been recognized as a lethal barrier to wildlife and an acute fracture zone for population connectivity at local and trans-boundary scales. As the TCH expansion project (2 to 4 lanes) moves up Banff National Park’s Bow Valley towards subalpine habitats of prime importance for wolverines, it becomes the first highway with wildlife mitigation at the spine of the Continental Divide. This high elevation ecosystem is doubly important given it is impacted by changing climatic conditions and its north-south axis is bisected by the major east-west TCH corridors.
The TCH expansion presents a unique opportunity to address an important threat to wolverine conservation at a metapopulation scale. We evaluated the effects of this major highway on the regional population of wolverines in a protected area complex within the species range.
Our Objectives were to:
- Estimate and model wolverine occupancy and habitat in the southern Canadian Rocky Mountains using noninvasive survey methods (Figure 1)
- Assess the effect of the Trans-Canada Highway on wolverine movement, gene flow and fine-scale genetic structure
- Provide greater awareness and understanding of the conservation challenges facing wolverine populations in the Canadian Rockies and
- Engage backcountry enthusiasts to report wolverine observations (sightings and sign) via the Wolverine Watch website and assist field researchers with a large-scale wolverine survey.
For more information on the 2010-2013 research, please download:
How it all began: The Year 1 report provides detailed descriptions of the fieldwork and sampling methods .
The 2014 Final Report presents the results from the 3 years of field work in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. It includes: 1) Effects of transportation infrastructure on fine-scale genetic structure of wolverines in Banff and Yoho National Parks; 2) Distribution models for wolverines in Central Canadian Rocky Mountains: An analysis fo 2010-11 and 2012-13 camera trap data.
Disclaimer: The original number of genotyped wolverines in this study has collapsed, due to genotyping errors, from 64 to 49 individuals. The final report (link below) has not been updated.