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Please comment to USFWS about wolverine status change

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Please comment to USFWS about wolverine status change

Old 06-05-2007, 09:31 PM
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Default Please comment to USFWS about wolverine status change

http://missoulian.com/articles/2007/06/05/bnews/br62.txt

The USFWS is taking comment on the possible change in status for the wolverine. This could mean an end to trapping wolverine in Montana. Please contact USFWS and let them know what potential ramifications such action could cause. Here is a copy of my comment. Thanks to all those that take a little time to help.

Let us in Montana decide what is best for our wildlife. In the wolverine we're talking about an animal residing in some of the least accesible areas in the lower 48. A great deal of this habitat is already protected as wilderness areas and national parks. The numbers of wolverines trapped in Montana are so low, that we're really only talking about saving a handful of animals in an already healthy population. As with many animals, some of the most valuable data we can gain comes from those pursuing them for sport. There is simply not the available capital or people to replace with live traps the contribution Montana trappers make in providing specimins for population research. Several dozen conibears or leg hold traps could be purchased for the cost of maintaining a single live trap. Placing the wolverine in federal status could in fact hinder the ability for all government wildlife agencies to study this animal by taking away specimins gained from Montana trappers as a key tool in wolverine management.
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Old 06-06-2007, 02:08 AM
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Default RE: Please comment to USFWS about wolverine status change

This happens periodically and is a normal part of USFWS duties under the ESA. Not much has changed in terms of research on wolverines or new information so I wouldn't get too worried just yet.

As far as trappers being a key tool in wolverine management, not really. The current trap design is a live trap made on site using modified radio collars. That is about the only proven option for trapping them live for immobilization and study etc.

Historical trapping data is of questionable value due to poor record keeping and the low density/large home range of wolverines.

What is of most value right now is live trapping to mark/recapture for population estimate, and using GPS collars to map habitat use and movement between populations.

As far as the population being healthy, well if they were sure, they wouldn't be doing this review. In a population structure like wolverines, one individual can impact the entire population, due mainly to huge homeranges, low birth rate, low density and large travel distances to find mates.

Wolverines taken by trappers arne't useful in research at this time. Only live animals for studies like I listed above.

As for federal status hampering things: right or wrong it would point the money hose at wolverine research enabling numerous projects to get done that are currently not funded...including mine.

No I'm not a bunny hugger.


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Old 06-08-2007, 01:32 AM
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Default RE: Please comment to USFWS about wolverine status change

From what I've heard, you can't keep a collar on a wolverine long enough to gain very much data. Now if you're doing implants then that's a different story.

I'm all for the live trapping methods, but if we are paying via grants for someone to be on site to build the traps, and perform all of the scientific aspects of doing this type of study, we are taking about a lot more money than setting some traditional traps. You could just as easily use some # 4 or 5 leg traps and check them every day.

If trapping data from Montana is as useless as you say, then checking in trapped wolverines has no purpose and FWP is wasting money performing this service. The fact that a similar number of wolverines are trapped each year, often in similar locations, suggests at least to me a healthy population. If the number of wolverine trapped tailed off dramatically, then maybe we could derive the need for further protection under federal standards.

Anyway I hope you find more money for your project. I'm highly interested in anything related to wolverine management, so I'd like to hear where and what you're doing.


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Old 06-10-2007, 12:14 AM
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Default RE: Please comment to USFWS about wolverine status change

ORIGINAL: MThunter

From what I've heard, you can't keep a collar on a wolverine long enough to gain very much data. Now if you're doing implants then that's a different story.

I'm all for the live trapping methods, but if we are paying via grants for someone to be on site to build the traps, and perform all of the scientific aspects of doing this type of study, we are taking about a lot more money than setting some traditional traps. You could just as easily use some # 4 or 5 leg traps and check them every day.

If trapping data from Montana is as useless as you say, then checking in trapped wolverines has no purpose and FWP is wasting money performing this service. The fact that a similar number of wolverines are trapped each year, often in similar locations, suggests at least to me a healthy population. If the number of wolverine trapped tailed off dramatically, then maybe we could derive the need for further protection under federal standards.

Anyway I hope you find more money for your project. I'm highly interested in anything related to wolverine management, so I'd like to hear where and what you're doing.

Good points.

Collars have come a long way, and have dramatically come down in cost since I've written my research proposal. I can't speak to a specific example but a percentage of collars is always lost/broken regardless of which species you're putting them on, and mustelids are harder on things than most. The ease or difficulty of a particular research method doesn't necessarily render it invalid or useless.

We are both trappers and so we both know that leghold traps most likely will not hold a wolverine and oftencause severe damage to the leg caught which will likely result in slow death.

The benefits of the current live trap design are hard to ignore:

1. Very low likelihood of injuringthe animal.
2.Animalscan't escape.
3. Only basic hand tools required, no packing traps, dirt,stakes, etc
4.Collar signals that the trap has been tripped, eliminating the need to visually check traps every day.
5. the animal is in a contained area making it very easy to deliver immobilizing drugs.
6. live trap design is much more effective when built by the average technician, as many of them have a total lack of trapping knowledge/skills. This in part justifies the larger time investment.

Immobilization via drugs, taking morphological measurements, putting on collars, taking genetic samples, and giving the reversal drug is a process that puts alot of stress on the animal. Having the added stress of being in a leg hold trap for ~24 hours would likely result in a high rate of mortality.

Live traps are made of on site materials and while being enclosed is stressful, it's arguably less stressful and less painful than being in a leg hold trap. Also, the response time in a live trap is less as there is a signal when it's tripped etc.

Trapping data will never give a population estimate, and is at best and very poor index of population trends due to huge variations in trapping effort, methods, and a whole host of uncontrollable or unknownvariables. It's basically used because harvest data is about all they can get currently, and can be helpful in terms of general inferences aboutpopulation agestructure etc.However,in terms ofdetermining actual number of animals on a landscapeit's of questionablevalue to say the least.

In my experience it's been used more to contact individual trappers to glean observational accounts and determine where study efforts might be best served, which in itself creates bias but that is another issue.

Waiting until trapping numbers drop dramatically to investigate federal protection would likely be too late. Again this varies by ecology of the species in question and low density, low birth rate species are often all but gone before we clumsily detect a problem.
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