As the climate crisis melts away their snowy mountain homes, North American wolverines have been officially categorized as vulnerable under the Endangered Species Act and will gain long-anticipated government protections, US officials revealed Wednesday.
In the contiguous United States, experts are warning that rising temperatures are rapidly reducing the mountain snowpack that wolverines depend on for food, breeding, and ultimately survival. This has led the US Fish and Wildlife Service to designate wolverines as threatened.
“Current and increasing impacts of climate change and associated habitat degradation and fragmentation are imperiling the North American wolverine,” Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Regional Director Hugh Morrison said in a statement. “Based on the best available science, this listing determination will help to stem the long-term impact and enhance the viability of wolverines in the contiguous United States.”
By placing wolverines on the list, numerous environmental laws provide legal safeguards for the endangered species, halting further population declines. To comprehend the fragile species better, it also promotes increased scientific research and improved conservation activities.
The habitat of wolverines extends over large portions of North America, including the tundra and boreal forests of Alaska and Canada, as well as the Northern Rocky Mountains and North Cascades in the lower 48 states, where the populations of wolverines are still mostly in good health.
Most recently, two wolverines in the Inyo National Forest and one in Yosemite National Park were among a rare trio of wolverines observed in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains last summer. Scientists estimate that the animal was last seen in the area between 2008 and 2018, even though the California Endangered Animal Act has already designated it as a threatened species.
In 2018, federal scientists predicted that the wolverine population would plummet dramatically over the next few decades as a result of climate change, leading to a large decline in spring snowfall.
Higher temperatures may have an impact on their capacity to maintain food supplies since they shorten the food’s shelf life and increase competition from robbers who are more suited to warmer regions, according to a different 2020 study.
Federal protections have been demanded by scientists and conservationists for a long time; certain environmental organizations, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, have even filed lawsuits in support of their claims.