SEATTLE -- Wolverines would be listed for protection as a threatened species in the Lower 48 states under a proposal announced last Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The listing, if finalized, is not expected to affect recreation, including snowmobiling, or timber harvest. Trapping would be prohibited.
The proposal starts a public-review process by the agency, which will include opportunities for public comment. Any decision to list is at least a year away.
The proposed listing is a triumph for conservation organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice, that battled in court for a decade to get federal protection for wolverines.
Gulo gulo are making a comeback in Washington, with scientists documenting new populations in the state since about the mid-1990s. But they remain rare.
Only about 300 wolverines survive in the western United States, including perhaps 25 in Washington. The animals live widely dispersed across some of the state's wildest country.
Scientists have confirmed resident populations in the North Cascades, and as far south as the Upper Icicle Creek drainage south of Highway 2 west of Leavenworth, Chelan County. Their historic home range stretches along the Cascade Crest from the Canadian border to Mount Rainier.
Wolverines once were treated as vermin because of their penchant for raiding trap lines. Poisoned, trapped and shot on sight, they were killed off in Washington by the 1930s. The animals recolonizing Washington today are the result of Canadian wolverines first visiting, then taking up residence in some of Washington's high, wild country.