FWP will file suit over wolverine listing
Ray Belston and son Brent with a wolverine in February, 1961. Belston was a logger and had been laid off since December. To support his family, he had a trapline up the South Fork. Belston tried to take the creature home alive, but it kept going after him so viciously that he had to shoot it, he said at the time. (Mel Ruder photo)
Editor | January 31, 2024 2:00 AM
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks last week filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over placing the wolverine on the Endangered Species List.
The Service a few weeks ago announced it would place the rare animal on the Endangered Species List, due in part to climate change melting the snows where it dens.
Wolverines typically den in downfall that’s buried deep beneath snows high in the mountains.
But FWP, in its notice, claims that studies done in Sweden show the animal is more adaptable than previously thought.
“The Service continues to use the possible effects of climate change as the primary argument and justification for listing wolverines, despite considerable biological uncertainty of these projected effects, and new evidence demonstrating snowpack’s minimal relationship to wolverine population and denning capability. In 2023, the Service was presented with scientific data demonstrating wolverine adaptability to reduced snowpack,” it says in its letter to FWS.
The data was from the Sweden study by Jens Persson.
“The amount of snow needed for a den is very small, is found on north slopes at high elevations, and is most important during February, March, and April,” FWP claimed, basing it on analysis of Persson’s study.
But Persson did find something that definitely impacts wolverine populations: poaching. He studied more than 200 wolverines in Sweden, where they’re also considered endangered, and found that humans killing them was the No.1 cause of death.
FWP also claims that the population in Canada and the Lower 48 is interconnected. It rejects that the Lower 48 population is a “distinct” population segment. It also claims wolverines are expanding their range, not contracting it.
Still, studies suggest there aren’t very many animals across the U.S. — fewer than 350.
“In Montana, wolverines continue to do well and inhabit much, if not all, of their available habitat,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Chief of Conservation Policy Quentin Kujala. “We work closely with our neighboring states to ensure the continued conservation of these iconic species. Federal protections in this case will only get in the way of good conservation work.”
The listing of the wolverine, which came after years of legal wrangling, has its share of politics as well.
“The Biden administration is once again ignoring the science and acting against Montana’s best interest. Montanans know best how to manage our wildlife, and the state worked hard to responsibly monitor and conserve the wolverine. Far-off bureaucrats should not be making sweeping decisions that will only harm commonsense management practices,” Montana Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, said in a statement.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment on the suit.
But the Environmental Group Earthjustice, which fought for wolverine protections for years, issued a statement defending the decision to list the animal.
“The wolverine needs the protections of the Endangered Species Act and the government made a well-justified decision to list the wolverine as a threatened species. We believe the best available science supports that decision,” it said.