Saturday, December 3, 2011

Yale 360 Environment - Yellowstone's Wolverines

e360 digest

02 DEC 2011


Yellowstone National Park’s wolverines live a harsh life high in the Rocky Mountains, with females giving birth in snow caves at 9,000 feet, males ranging over territories covering 500 square miles, and

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Mark Packila/WCS
A Yellowstone wolverine

the scrappy animals doing battle with grizzly bears many times their size, according to a new study. Biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society(WCS) used radio-tracking technology to observe 30 wolverines over eight years. While other species either hibernate or move to lower terrain in the winter, WCS biologists found that wolverines continue to patrol their high-mountain terrain throughout the coldest months, seeking scraps of meat that they hide beneath boulders and snow. With large feet that allow them to walk atop deep snow, wolverines — the largest member of the weasel family — are able to move from one side of Wyoming’s Teton Range to the other in just hours, according to the study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. Two of the radio-collared wolverines were killed in avalanches. “We learned that wolverines are adapted to eke out a living in very harsh conditions,” said WCS biologist Robert Inman. “As a result, they naturally exist in low numbers and reproduce slowly.”

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