Wolverine, Andrew Manske
Wolverine © Andrew Manske

Wolverines

Wolverines are well adapted to live in northern environments where wilderness areas still exist.

Why wolverines matter

Wolverines can act as an indicator of the health of wild ecosystems. Their presence signifies an area has vast undisturbed habitats with minimal human activity − habitat characteristics important for populations of many threatened wildlife species that share space with wolverines.

The species was once found across most of Canada, but due to human disturbances, such as road building, they now live in largely inaccessible northern boreal, alpine, and tundra areas.

Status

  • Special Concern in Canada
  • Threatened in Ontario

Areas of concern

Where wolverines are (and aren't)

Wolverines are found across boreal forest, mountain, and Arctic tundra habitats of Canada. Their primary range loss has occurred along the southern edge of the boreal forest, the plains, and eastern Canada (e.g., Quebec, Labrador).

Habitat loss and disturbance

Wolverines lack resilience to human disturbance because they occur at low densities, occupy large territories, and are slow to reproduce.

Their habitats are being developed and fragmented by the mining, forestry, and petroleum industries. Industrial developments, such as roads and forest harvest areas, degrade wolverine habitat quality and can increase their mortality from human sources.

Climate change

Wolverines are morphologically and physiologically adapted to cold and snowy climates. Their large paws act as snowshoes to ease movements across a deep snowpack. They den in snow caves dug into rock fields or fallen trees. A lack of deep snow with climate change, or a decrease in the quality of the snowpack, might limit their mobility, competitive advantage, and denning success.

Our solutions

Innovative field research

Our research focuses on wolverine distribution and response to human disturbance in Canada’s boreal forest. We have used radiotelemetry in northwestern Alberta and northwestern Ontario to understand the effect of human disturbances, such as roads and forest harvest areas, on wolverine physiology, distribution, reproduction, and movement.

Our grids of camera traps in these areas allow us to understand wolverine density and how it changes with human disturbances. Our aerial surveys throughout northern Ontario between 2003 and 2024 have allowed us to track and understand drivers of wolverine distribution across large scales.

Our work has updated the population status of wolverines and provided techniques to minimize the effects of human disturbances on wolverine populations and habitats.

Working with Indigenous communities and young scientists

The Wolverine Program works closely with local and Indigenous communities. Fur trappers and local people are active participants in our field research, lending their fine-tuned local knowledge as the “eyes and ears of the bush”. We also work with students to help train the next generation of conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts.

Projects

Identifying key wolverine habitat

Identifying key wolverine habitat

We're surveying wolverine populations in northern Ontario to create a clearer picture of where wolverine are – and aren’t.

Resources


Stories and op-eds

Building a wolverine trap
2021-06-21

Building a wolverine trap

How do you attach a collar to a wolverine?
Community science is helping track wolverines in the Cascades
2021-06-15

Community science is helping track wolverines in the Cascades

Tracks left by wildlife provide a wealth of information that help inform their management and conservation
Matthew Scrafford
On the track of wolverines, from Ontario to Washington State
2021-06-12

On the track of wolverines, from Ontario to Washington State

Tracks left by wildlife provide a wealth of information that can help to inform wildlife management and conservation efforts.
Matthew Scrafford

Media coverage

Wolverine conservation on Superior Morning

Wolves, vehicles, and incidental trappings are putting wolverines at risk in Red Lake, Ontario. To find out more, we reached out to Matthew Scrafford. He's the Conservation Scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.
2024-05-17 | CBC

Wolverine: Tracking the elusive trickster

2022-10-02 | Canadian Geographic

Great Lakes Untamed

Wolverine Walker Of The Great Lakes
2022-09-23 | TVO

Our team

Justina Ray

Justina Ray

President & Senior Scientist

Laura McCaw

Laura McCaw

Wolverine Research Associate

Teri Jones

Teri Jones

 Wolverine Spatial Ecologist

Matthew Scrafford

Matthew Scrafford

Wolverine Conservation Scientist


Press releases

Ontario's Vision for Mineral Exploration and Mining: Renewing the Mineral Development Strategy
2015-07-09

Ontario's Vision for Mineral Exploration and Mining: Renewing the Mineral Development Strategy

Even though Ontario's mining sector has been in a downturn for the past two years, mining is still big business.