Wolverines in the North Cascades to be topic

Sep 12, 2013
Keith Aubry, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service, inspects a sedated wolverine captured in the North Cascades.

“Wolverines are mysterious and, to me, are symbolic of wilderness and wild things,” says Keith Aubry, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, Keith will be presenting the latest information on the status of wolverines in Washington State at the Northwest Stream Center in Snohomish County’s McCollum Park.

Thanks to his research, we are becoming much more informed about wolverines in Washington State.

Until recently, we did not have a clear picture of their range or an estimate of how many there are in our area.

Keith has been studying wolverines in the North Cascades since 2006, when he became the first researcher to radio-collar a wolverine anywhere in the Pacific states.

One of the first wolverines he collared, an adult male named Rocky, was recaptured and monitored during 2012, when he mated with two females (Xena and Mallory) at 8 years of age.

The two dens that Aubry’s team located last year are the first wolverine reproductive dens ever described in this region.

There are many myths about this animal that is often compared to the Tasmanian devil in Australia.  Keith will separate the myths from fact.

Wolverines are meat eaters, and they vigorously defend their food with nasty claws and very sharp teeth.

However, while there are old stories about this 25 to 35 pound creature that looks like a teddy bear ripping out the throat of a bull elk, they generally scavenge on carrion or prey on marmots and ground squirrels.

Wolverines often have been considered to be loners, but new evidence is emerging that wolverines may be more social than we thought.

Unfortunately, wolverine populations could be impacted by human activities.  Fur trapping outside of Washington is taking a toll.

And studies are underway to determine if snowmobiles and helicopter skiers in remote high-mountain areas may have negative effects on wolverine populations.

Aubry advises that global warming is also becoming a factor. He says, “Pregnant females give birth in snow caves located in areas where snow cover persists into the spring.

“As the climate warms, such areas will shrink in extent in the North Cascades, along with the numbers of wolverines.”

His research is being used to help determine whether wolverine populations in the contiguous U.S. will be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Join Keith at the Northwest Stream Center.  He will present magnificent wolverine images showing their habits and habitat requirements, and share many amazing “nose to nose” tales about this very secretive animal.

This Streamkeeper Academy presentation, which is geared for middle school students to old gray beards, will be conducted at the Adopt A Stream Foundation’s North Stream Center in Snohomish County’s McCollum Park, 600-128th Street SE, Everett.

Registration in advance is required by calling 425-316-8592; $5 members/$7 non-members.

For other Streamkeeper Academy events, check www.streamkeeper.org.

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