VANCOUVER- A new project aims to find out more about the life and lifestyle of the ghost of the deep forests of British Columbia, the wolverine.
The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation along with the Forest Enhancement Society of BC will undertake a project to study the range, movements, and habitat of wolverines in the south coast region, including Squamish.
Brian Springinotic of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation says it is important to study these creatures because human activity and climate change may be having a significant impact on them. It is also important to understand what and how far ranging those impacts are, he says.
“Wolverines are this iconic, elusive species in British Columbia. Wolverines capture people’s attention. There’s a lot of myth and stories about wolverines,” Springinotic said in an interview. “But we don’t know enough about the science around wolverines on the south coast.”
The three-year project aims to find out the number of wolverines in the area, their habitat needs, pressures on the landscape and how to accommodate human growth while respecting the territory of the animals. The study will include setting up of camera traps and bait stations to find out the habits and movements of the furry, ferocious predators.
In spite of the image that they portray, Springinotic says the animals are shy, elusive creatures that don’t seek human contact.
“I spend a lot of time in the woods and I’ve never seen a wolverine in the wild,” he said.
Wolverines are found in various regions around the province, according to the provincial environment ministry’s website. The only areas of B.C. where they do not regularly occur are the Lower Mainland, the dry sections of the Fraser and Okanagan valleys in the southern Interior and the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Springinotic says they live in the deep forest and at high elevations.
He says his organization feels a moral obligation to do what it can to maintain wolverine populations so future generations of British Columbians have a chance to see them in the wild.
“They are a real articulation of wilderness and B.C.,” he said.
The project to study wolverines is one of about 150 that are being funded by the foundation, which describes itself as a “non-profit charitable foundation” supported by hunters, anglers, trappers and outfitters. The other projects include a census of the mountain goat, monitoring endangered grizzly bear populations and improving mountain caribou calf survival.
Wolverines are among the largest non-aquatic members of the weasel family. They are medium-sized, stocky, bear-like animals with short, thick-set legs and large paws. Males and females are similar in appearance, but males are larger, weighing up to 20 kilograms, while adult females grow up to 14 kilograms.
The animals are listed as a species of concern in the province, which means they are susceptible to human activity.
Springinotic says wolverines are a part of British Columbia’s natural heritage, and seen as mythical creatures that are fearless, tireless and something to be respected.
“Long before there were movies and comic books about wolverines, First Nations had a real image and myth and story around wolverines because they are such an iconic and quite elusive creature in B.C.”