First wolverine mama in southern Washington in many decades.

Pepper's unique chest blaze. 

In collaboration with the United States Forest Service (Naches Ranger District), we have documented a reproductive female wolverine, south of Interstate Highway 90 (I-90) in Washington's Cascade Range for the first time in a long time. We nicknamed her Pepper and she is also the first female wolverine documented south of I-90 in many decades. We first detected Pepper in 2016 at 2 wildlife monitoring stations on the Naches Ranger District. We collected hair samples from her in 2017  at another station as part of the Western Wolverine Conservation Project. Her DNA was genotyped to give her a unique ID, F37. This April, she was photographed at one of our runpole monitoring stations. From photographs, we confirmed with wolverine experts that she is lactating and therefore has kits (as long as they remain alive).

Pepper’s belly showing enlarged teats, evidence of lactation.

Our field crew followed Pepper's snow tracks along with a larger set of tracks, presumably of a male, and we detected a male wolverine at the same station as Pepper was detected as well as at a second station in the vicinity. 

Unknown male at another wildlife monitoring station.

Wolverines are slowly gaining ground in Washington after having been extirpated from the state in the 1950s due to excessive human-caused mortalities associated with predator control programs; however, their distribution had been largely confined to the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE), north of I-90. As some of you may remember, the Yakama Nation made the first detection of a wolverine south of I-90, on the east slopes of Mt Adams in 2006. This was the impetus for founding the Cascades Carnivore Project. Now, this most recent evidence of a lactating female is the first indication that wolverines might be re-establishing themselves in the southern Washington Cascades. And while this is good news for wolverines and for wolverine conservation, there is evidence that their abundance throughout the contiguous United States is very low. In addition, they face new threats from by climate change and increased recreation.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.