By Cathy Scholtens and Becky Howard, Stevensville
Currently, Montana is the only state in the entire contiguous United States that still allows trapping of wolverine. Biologists believe that there may be only 35 wolverines left biologically capable of passing their genes to the next generations, and this is the number most relevant to wolverine population viability in Montana. The total population is considered be only around 175 animals. Reproductive rates for wolverines are among the lowest known for mammals. MFWP biologists have stated that the addition of wolverine to the Endangered Species Act list of threatened and endangered wildlife is warranted. Their own biologists determined that with an already small population size with low genetic diversity, loss and modification of habitat from climate change, the authorization of wolverine trapping in Montana, and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms pose a threat to wolverine.
However, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is now failing to protect the last vestiges of the wolverine population in Montana. The MFWP continues to treat wolverines as furbearers that can be trapped for their fur.
Montana’s wolverines are at the tipping point. To allow trapping is incredibly short-sighted and scientifically flawed. I believe the following points, made in the Complaint for Injunctive Relief
filed to place a temporary restraining order on the 2013 trapping of wolverine in order to review the scientific data and make a responsible ruling based on science, are important to review:
• According to Forest Service biologists, decisions concerning wolverine trapping are critical to the persistence of extant populations and to the recolonization of depleted populations, especially in isolated mountain ranges.
• The Service found that trapping wolverines could have “significant negative effects” on wolverine populations inhabiting small mountain ranges.
• Trapping accounts for a high proportion of wolverine mortality, affecting even populations that are locally protected.
• Wolverines are vulnerable to trapping due to their habit of ranging widely in search of carrion, which would bring them into frequent contact with poison baits and traps. Females with newborn young are limited in their ranging and foraging and are especially vulnerable to easily obtained trap baits.
• The best available science reveals that human caused mortality of wolverine from trapping can harm local populations of wolverine in a number of ways.
So, why is it that MFWP isn’t listing the wolverine as endangered and protecting it? MFWP explained that adopting a rule to list wolverine is precluded by “higher priority listing actions.” Hmm… If that is the true cause, then when a temporary restraining order is set in place to protect the wolverine before MFWP can get around to it, WHY is it that MFWP fights the injunction instead of welcoming it?
We believe MFWP is bowing to pressure by the trapping lobby in Montana. For a measly pelt price of $253, these trappers are willing to throw away the survival of an important animal in the Montana ecosystem. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. What is forever worth?
Please do the right thing and stand up for the wolverine. Please help us in this fight for the continued presence of wolverine and other native carnivores which is part of what makes Montana so unique and special. Help us keep Montana truly The Last Best Place. Write to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks: firstname.lastname@example.org, The Montana Governor’s Office: email@example.com and local letters to the editor. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.