Wolverines in Danger as Global Warming Strikes Again

First Posted: Feb 01, 2013 01:26 PM EST

Wolverines may not be as charismatic as polar bears, but the animals do share something in common: They're both being affected by climate change. The wolverine has officially been added to the list of species affected by climate change.

The wolverine is a snow-loving carnivore, sometimes called the "mountain devil." It's a powerful animal that resembles a small bear, but is actually the largest member of the weasel family. Even though the largest of the wolverines are only around 40 pounds, they can be aggressive enough to stand up to a grizzly. Yet even so, wolverines are solitary creatures, and can travel as many as 15 miles a day in search of food. They can be found in remote boreal forests, taiga and tundra in the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia and North America.

Currently, the wolverine's habitat is shrinking drastically due to warming temperatures. There are only 250 to 300 wolverines left in the contiguous U.S., and all of them are clustered into small, isolated groups in the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington. Larger populations of the mammal can be found in Alaska and Canada, however.

Federal wildlife officials on Friday will propose Endangered Species Act protections for the wolverine in the lower 48 states-a motion that has been denied twice under the Bush administration. It would disallow the trapping of wolverines-a practice that still continues in Montana.

Wildlife advocates have already sued to force the government to act on the issue. They hope that the wolverine's plight will be used by the Obama administration to leverage tighter controls on greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to giving protection to the wolverine, the Fish and Wildlife Service plane to allow Colorado's wildlife agency to reintroduce and experimental population of the animals into the high mountains of Colorado. This would help bolster the population, and could mean that the animals would eventually spill into neighboring portions of New Mexico and Wyoming.

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