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How to Analyze a Million Wolverine Photos. For real.

How to Analyze a Million Wolverine Photos. For real.

What’s going on ‘behind the scenes’? How are ‘data’ born? With your help, we spent 3 years collecting photos (and hair samples) of wolverines across the Upper Columbia and North Thompson Regions. That was the easy part. Now, we have to create data out of about a million images!
Trevor Thompson, an undergraduate student at the University of Calgary, has joined Mirjam in the project. In this short video he explains what’s involved in the first step of photo processing, where we tag every single photo with the species on it. It’s a lot of fun, and a lot of work!
…In case you wonder, we did try to automate the process, working with an AI company. Unfortunately we found that with this particular setup, human eyes & brains are much better and quicker still at judging what species is on the photo. So, we rolled up our sleeves and got it done!

Drones and Dens Update – Nov 2020


  • > Over 400 citizen scientists contributed wolverine (animal, track, den) sightings to our website:
  • > In 2020, BC Parks implemented a 400 ha voluntary backcountry skiing closure in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park around one of the wolverine dens identified in 2019. This denning area was first reported by citizen scientists! It was subsequently re-used by a wolverine during the 2020 closure period! Way to go, gulo and backcountry users!
  • > 500 ha at two other denning areas were submitted to the British Columbia Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development (FLNRORD) as candidates for protection as Wildlife Habitat Areas. These will be the first of their kind in the region!


  • > With help from Y2Y, we have told the wolverine conservation story to tens of thousands of people through radio, newsprint and online forums (Since 2019).
  • > We presented to >2000 individuals in communities in the South Columbia Mountains (Fall/winter 2019).
  • > In 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtailed our operations, however, we were still able to follow up on several reported wolverine dens and identified wolverine denning activity at 2 locations and confirmed reproduction at a third – see the photos below (Spring/Summer 2020)
  • > Both den locations were in remote areas of provincial parks and will not require additional habitat protection.
  • > While field work was shut down, we adapted to pandemic constraints by shifting our focus towards creating best management practices to inform industrial, recreational and tourism operations in wolverine habitat and denning areas (Ongoing).
  • > In the fall of 2020 we are working with Y2Y on a “Wildlife Wise” workshop, for winter recreationists in the south Columbia region. These online workshops will teach winter recreationists about wolverine ecology and will help them in making ethical choices in the backcountry. More on this coming soon!

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:

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.

Project Begins Winter 2010

Project Begins Winter 2010

During the 2010/11 winter, we will carry out a large-scale survey for wolverine in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. We seek to unite the energy and passion of the skier, climber and conservationist to protect wilderness ecosystems. We need your help on long and short ski trips to survey for wolverine tracks and setup hair trap sites. If you are interested, please read the volunteer info here and then sign up here.

More information will be available here as we get ready to start survey work in early January 2011. Don’t worry we will send out an update once we have everything planned and setup. Why volunteer? Well, it will be really fun, here are some photos from last winter’s pilot study. There will be some very hard work involved getting the hair trap sites set up which consist of a dead beaver, barb wire, and a motion activated camera! Who would want to miss out on a ski trip like that!

The results from the survey will examine how roads such as the bustling Trans Canada and Highway 93 affect wolverine movement and gene flow. Because of their extensive movements and low densities, hair trap surveys need to be conducted over a large area and within some of the most remote habitats of the mountain parks. The traps consist of barbed-wire wrapped around a tree where a whole beaver carcass is secured to entice the animal to climb! Last March, we set up hair traps at six sites to learn whether wolverines would approach the traps, and if they would leave hair. Each site had a remote, infrared-operated camera to help identify the visitors. After one month, three of the six sites captured wolverine on camera, with three sites netting 35 hair samples. At one site, we observed two wolverines.Tony-Hoare_Faye-Upper-Siffleur-198x300

Based on those results we are implementing a study that spans over 5000 sq. km covering parts of Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks and spills into the Columbia Trench. It is a huge area and we need your help. This is the first winter of collecting this data, which also includes simple observations on wolverine occurrence (sightings and track observations). So, please bear with us as we develop this website and a usable mechanism to involve you. We thank you for your interest in participating in this project! It is going to be a great winter and we look forward to meeting you!

Lead researcher for Wolverine Watch Dr. Tony Clevenger has a PhD in wildlife ecology, and has been conducting wildlife research in the Mountain Parks since 1996. This project is part of a five-year partnership between Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute, Miistakis Institute for the Rockies and Parks Canada, studying the impacts of the TCH wildlife crossings.