Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wolverine study to start this winter

Information session next week


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Do backcountry skiers keep wolverines from breeding? Robin Garwood, wildlife biologist at the Sawtooth National Recreation area, said she hopes to find out.

"Right now little is known about how wolverines react to recreation use," she stated in a press release last week. "We this study will provide us with helpful information."

Though skiers, snowshoers and other backcountry winter recreationists may never see a wolverine while participating in their favorite sports, Garwood said the animals still may be disturbed by nearby humans.

Garwood applied for a grant last fall to track both wolverines and backcountry recreationists, but did not receive funding until this year.

The wolverine's status has since changed from a species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act to a species that warrants (but did not receive) protection.

According to a Forest Service press release, the information gathered from this project will assist biologists in determining how wolverines and winter recreationists interact. That knowledge will help ensure that both co-exist as well as possible.

The research project began in 2009 on the Payette National Forest and will be conducted on the Sawtooth National Forest this winter. Recreationists will be asked to put on GPS monitors before heading out, monitors that will likely be available at Galena Lodge north of Ketchum and at well-used trailheads.

According to Garwood's grant application, wolverines are more vulnerable during the winter, the season when they select and use natal dens where they give birth to and raise their young.

Wolverines mate from June to August, but females don't begin to seek out natal dens until late February or early March. Den-seeking females normally stay in a smaller area during this time, and range more widely during the summer.

The Sawtooth National Forest will host an informational presentation on the project Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m. at the YMCA on Saddle Road in Ketchum.

The presentation will explain the results of the Payette study so far and explain how local recreationists will be asked to help Forest Service researchers gather information.

Garwood said the project is being expanded to gain a larger sample size, which can lead to more accurate data.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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