North Cascades wolverine study goes international

MAZAMA -- The first study of wolverines in the North Cascades is now an international effort.

Researchers here have begun collaborating with wildlife biologists from the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment.

The change means a larger geographic area in which to study the elusive high-elevation scavengers and more knowledge to tap for the five-year study, said wildlife biologist Keith Aubry, who's headed the study for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Biologists will also double the number of traps around the Methow Valley, and use bait only inside the traps in an effort to catch more animals.

Bait had also been used near remote camera sites to photograph the animals.

"One of the questions we're interested in is: Are we studying an isolated or semi-isolated population that maybe gets colonized periodically, or is it just the southern extent of the range of a population that goes into British Columbia?" Aubry asked.

If the same animals are repeatedly caught both north and south of the border, they may all be part of a larger population that considers both north-central Washington and lower British Columbia its home.

On a practical level, Aubry said, it's difficult for biologists to track the wolverines with radio collars once they cross into Canada, so having a biologist in Canada tracking the same animals will be very useful.

And if wolverines trapped in Canada travel south, biologists here can pick up their movements.

Canadian researchers will also set up traps and radio-collar wolverines they catch.