climate change

Information on the effects of climate change on wolverines in the West.

Wolverines and Climate Change

Because of the risk they face from global warming, wolverines may qualify for the dubious distinction of “the polar bear of the lower 48.”  Though less evident as the polar bear’s dependence on arctic ice, researchers have found that wolverines depend on areas that maintain spring snowpack well into springtime.  Why?  Female wolverines dig dens as deep as eight feet into the snow to birth their kits in mid-February, and the snow protects kits from weather and predation until they are weaned and ready to travel on their own in mid-May.  Wolverine distribution worldwide directly corresponds to areas that maintain persistent spring snowpack (see Copeland et al. 2010 below).  Spring snowpack in the western United States is already decreasing because of warming trends already underway (see McKelvey et al. 2011, and the Defenders of Wildlife factsheet below).  Global warming may be the primary justification for listing wolverines in the lower 48 for protection under the Endangered Species Act


Link to a new study projecting the specific declines of spring snowpack across the western U.S. (McKelvey et al. 2011), expected to result in a one third loss of wolverine habitat in 20-50 years, and nearly two-thirds loss in 60-90 years.


Link to the recent study showing wolverines need persistent snowpack (Copeland et al. 2010):


Link to another study linking declining snowpack with declining wolverine populations in Canada (Brodie and Post 2010):


Link to Defenders of Wildlife factsheet on wolverines and global warming: