Working with Alberta’s Trappers to Map Wolverine Distribution and Identify Conservation Risks
We are partnering with the Alberta Trappers’ Association to identify where wolverines occur in the province and to determine the major factors associated with their distribution. To do this, bait stations with remote cameras are set up within the Registered Fur Management Areas of volunteer trappers. Trappers check and maintain these sites throughout the winter and then provide the photographs to biologists, who analyze them to determine what site characteristics are associated with a higher probability of finding wolverines and other species. Sampling focused on Boreal regions of the province during 2013/14 and 2014/15. The study area roughly stretched from Cold Lake to Grande Prairie and north to the Northwest Territories border. Wolverines were detected at 22 of the 47 sites in 2013/14; unique markings identified at least 30 different wolverines. Occupancy analysis indicated that the closer a site was to an area of either Lower or Upper Boreal Highlands natural subregions, the more likely it was to have wolverines present. Wolverines were less likely to occur as the road density within the surrounding township increased or the closer a site was located to a human population centre. We created a GIS layer that approximated the relationship between elevation and latitude that influences ambient temperature—the cooler the relative theoretical temperature within the township, the more likely wolverines were to occupy a given area. Contrary to our predictions, we did not see a positive relationship between wolverines and areas of persistent spring snow into late April to mid-May. We also did not find a positive relationship between wolverines and parks or protected areas, or a negative relationship with seismic line density. We anticipate gaining more clarity on the habitat and environmental features important to wolverines as we work with trappers over the coming winters.
Alberta Environment and Parks, Alberta Trappers’ Association, Animal Damage Control – A Division of Bushman Inc., Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd., Environment Canada, Harvest Operations Corp., Shell FuellingChange, Trapper Gord Homestead & Survival, University of Alberta
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