Wolverine trapping a bad idea and bad science

And while we’re jumping on the wolverine trapping issue, here is a letter from Bob Nelson, Vice President of the North Fork Preservation Association. It went out the the editors of several regional papers a couple of days ago. The “petition” referenced in his letter has just been pre-empted by yesterday’s lawsuit, but his comments are still very much to the point . . .

To the editor

The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission recently authorized the trapping of five wolverines (or three females) during this trapping season. The Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Friends of the Wild Swan, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, and the Wild Earth Guardians, petitioned the commission. The petition requested that the trapping of wolverines be stopped this season and that all wolverine trapping be suspended until the wolverine is no longer a candidate or protective species under the US Endangered Species Act.

The North Fork Preservation Association (NFPA) supports that petition and asks that the public contact the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission to support that petition.  The NFPA is composed of citizens living in or concerned about the ecosystem of the North Fork of the Flathead River. We are dedicated to protecting the natural resources that make the North Fork an unparalleled area for wildlife and people.

The petition provides ample reasons and supporting research for canceling wolverine trapping. Currently, the total population of wolverines in Montana is estimated to be between 100-175 individuals. That number is expected to decline as climate change shrinks the available snowpack habitat in Montana. The trapping of wolverines when the population is small and at risk makes a bad situation worse. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) states that the trapped wolverine populations likely live at densities that are lower than are necessary to maintain their population unless wolverines from untrapped populations are added. Currently, the Service believes the wolverine population is inadequate for maintenance of genetic diversity of the species.

Montana is the only state in the contiguous US that allows wolverine trapping. Idaho and Wyoming designate wolverines as a protected non-game species while Washington lists the wolverine as an endangered species. Under Montana law, the state is required to manage wolverines in a manner that assists with the maintenance or recovery of the species.  Instead, trapping may put that species at risk. Trapping does not distinguish which animal will be trapped; if a nursing mother wolverine is trapped, both the female and her young are dead.

Wolverines are an integral part of the Montana ecosystem. They are strong, robust, will eat anything, are afraid of nothing, and can climb the highest peak with ease.  Their large snowshoe-like feet give them an edge over most competitors and prey during the winter months. Putting this species at risk so that five trappers can “harvest” a pelt worth about $260 is a poor decision, both for the wolverine and the people of Montana.

The NFPA is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the plants, animals, and water that exist within the North Fork region. The wolverine is one of those animals and deserves protection from trapping.

Bob Nelson
Vice-president, NFPA
135 Rainbow Drive
Polebridge, MT 59928