The Ontario Wolverine Project
The goals of the Ontario Wolverine Project are to:
- Refine knowledge of wolverine distribution and habitat in Northern Ontario;
- Test inventory and monitoring techniques; and
- Develop interim management guidelines and recommendations for maintaining wolverines in areas of timber harvest
Data collection has been undertaken using a combination of techniques including live-capture and ARGOS/VHF radio-collaring, hair snaring, camera trapping, aerial surveys, and interviews with First Nations elders and trappers.
During 2003 and 2004, we concentrated our efforts at two scales of inquiry:
1. An “intensive” 28,000 km2 study area centered on Red Lake, where we captured and radio-collared seven wolverines, and tested several survey techniques (camera traps, hair snares, and aerial track surveys) in both logged and unlogged habitats.
2. An “extensive” 500,000 km2 study area, where we conducted 117 interviews with First Nations elders and trappers in six communities, and broad-scale aerial surveys to obtain information on the distribution and conservation status of wolverines throughout the rest of the province.
During the third season of fieldwork (January-April 2005) of the Ontario Wolverine Project, we extended our study area around Red Lake to the north (unlogged), south (intensively logged), and east (minimally logged) and carried out aerial track surveys to investigate the relationship between distribution patterns of wolverine tracks and distribution and disturbance levels of forest habitat produced by logging activities and roads.
Results from this fieldwork are already beginning to inform conservation planning in the Northern Boreal region.
Further work aimed at addressing whether the distribution and relative abundance of wolverines in the study area are affected by habitat changes brought about by logging and roads will contribute to the development of measures for ensuring the long-term presence of wolverine populations in northwestern Ontario.
In collaboration with our partners, WCS Canada is also developing recommendations for monitoring low-density species in vast, roadless areas and collecting incidental information on species such as wolves, woodland caribou and moose.
In April 2004, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ ‘Species at Risk’ listed the wolverine as “threatened”. This designation was assigned because:
a. The species’ range within the province had declined by ≥ 50%
b. Resource extraction development activity is increasing in areas where it presently resides, and
c. Wolverines inherently lack resilience in terms of their ability to withstand population-level reductions, and are unable to withstand the loss of many individuals.
As a result of WCS Canada's wolverine work, lead researcher and WCS Canada Director, Justina Ray, has been appointed as a member of the provicial govenments Wolverine Recovery Team and the results of WCS Canada's research are serving as the foundation for the formulation of recovery goals and strategies for wolverine in Ontario.
Several satellite projects have emanated from the Ontario Wolverine Porject:
WCS Canada Researchers:
WCS Canada Partners:
WCS Canada is playing a key role in Ontario’s Northern Boreal region by working with partners on primary research on wolverine, a species that has demonstrated vulnerability to human development activities and for which no information in lowland boreal habitats has ever been collected.