South Columbia Mountains Wolverine Project – Selkirk, Purcell, Valhalla and Monashee Mountains, British Columbia

Duration – 2012-2016

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We found that wolverine density in the southern Columbia Mountains in BC is lower than anticipated by wildlife managers and lower than in other areas of the province. We also found that wolverine presence was positively associated with food (marmots!) and negatively associated with human disturbance; in particular, female wolverines strongly avoid forestry roads in winter. Winter use of forestry roads in our study area is primarily by snow machine recreation and to a lesser extent forest harvest. Other research also suggests that female wolverine avoid areas used for winter recreation (snowmobiles and skiers).

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

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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:

  1. Estimate and model wolverine occupancy and habitat in the southern Canadian Rocky Mountains using noninvasive survey methods (Figure 1)
  2. Assess the effect of the Trans-Canada Highway on wolverine movement, gene flow and fine-scale genetic structure
  3. Provide greater awareness and understanding of the conservation challenges facing wolverine populations in the Canadian Rockies and
  4. 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.

wolverine-map-past-projectFigure 1. Study area and sampling sites for Year 1, winter 2010-2011. Sampling sites for Year 3 (2012-13) were in nearly all cases the same location.

For more information on the 2010-2013 research, please download:

Annual Report, Year 1 (2010-11)

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.

Wolverine chapters of 2014 final report: