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Knowledge about people's willingness to pay (WTP) for conservation efforts is becoming increasingly important for natural resource management. We used a mail survey with four contacts to 11,418 people, aged 16-65, to investigate how much and why Swedes were willing to pay for wolverine Gulo gulo conservation. With the restricted distribution of European wolverines, Sweden has a key role in their management. We found that Swedes were least likely to support wolverine conservation efforts compared to wolves Canis lupus, lynx Lynx lynx and brown bears Ursus arctos. The amount varied between 965 and 1,233 SEK per person. Of the national representative control group, 47% expressed willingness to pay an average of 1,253 SEK per person. We found that in densely populated urban municipalities with a high proportion of university educated, high female-to-male ratio, positive attitude to the European monetary union (EMU), and a high income, people were more positive towards paying for wolverine conservation. The presence of wolves, but not the presence of any of the other large carnivores, was negatively related to peoples' WTP for wolverine conservation. This indicates that the presence and related experience of wolves might be the principal driver of people's perception of all large carnivores, including wolverines.
Knowledge of the wolverine Gulo gulo mating system is limited. In this study, we use 20 microsatellite loci for paternity testing in 145 wolverine offspring with known mothers. Samples were collected during > 10 years in two Scandinavian populations, mainly in connection with radio-telemetry studies and as part of long-term population monitoring. In total, 51% of the offspring were assigned a father. Our results demonstrate that the wolverine exhibits a polygamous mating system as some males were shown to produce offspring with more than one female in a single year. Females often reproduced with the same male in subsequent breeding years, but sometimes changed their partner, potentially as a consequence of a change in the territory-holding male in the area. In the majority of litters, siblings were unambiguously assigned the same father, indicating that multiple paternity is rare. Of 23 breeding pairs, for which telemetry data were available, 20 had overlapping home ranges, suggesting that pair formation generally is consistent with the territories held by wolverine males and females.
We examined the seasonal food habits of wolverine Gulo gulo in subboreal and interior wet-belt montane environments in British Columbia by analyzing scats collected during the course of two concurrent wolverine studies. Understanding foraging ecology for a wide-ranging carnivore such as the wolverine is important, particularly because reproduction has been demonstrated to be closely linked to food abundance. Wolverine diet was shown to vary regionally and seasonally. Regional variation was related to differences in prey availability between study areas. Moose Alces alces, caribou Rangifer tarandus, and hoary marmots Marmota caligata were abundant and common prey items within both study areas. Mountain goats Oreamnos americanus and porcupine Erithizon dorsatum were more abundant and more frequent prey items in the Columbia Mountains, while snowshoe hare Lepus americanus and beaver Castor canadensis were more abundant and more frequent prey items in the Omineca Mountains. Within the winter season, diet choices by reproductive females were different than other sex and age classes. Caribou, hoary marmots and porcupines were found in significantly higher frequencies in the diet of reproductive females. Foraging observations concurred with the findings of scat analyses. Dependence of reproductive females on a species of current conservation concern (caribou) and one which could be affected by issues related to climate change (hoary marmot) may present conservation issues for wolverines in the future.
This paper presents the results of the first substantive DNA mark-recapture sampling effort for wolverines Gulo gulo using hair-snag sampling. In the spring of 2004, 284 bait posts were sampled in 3 × 3 km cells for four sessions in the Daring Lake area of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Bait posts were baited with caribou and scent lures. As well, a fish lure was dragged around by snowmobiles during bait post setup. One hair sample was genotyped from each post for each session. Results suggested a high degree of attraction to bait posts by wolverines with capture probabilities of > 0.5 for both sexes and very precise estimates for females. Males displayed substantial closure violation whereas females did not. Investigation of reduced effort designs suggests that a 2-session sampling design with moderate densities of bait posts is adequate for estimation of population size for wolverines due to high capture probabilities. A longer-term monitoring effort is recommended to allow better understanding of wolverine populations in the area.
Low densities and wide-ranging behaviour make wolverines Gulo gulo difficult to monitor. We used quadrat sampling of tracks in snow to estimate wolverine populations. We conducted aerial surveys in upper Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Mountains (TAKM) in south-central Alaska and in Old Crow Flats (OCF) in northern Yukon during March 2004 following procedures for the sample-unit probability estimator (SUPE). This technique uses network sampling of tracks in snow in a stratified random system of quadrats or sample units. In TAKM, we sampled 87 (51%) out of 171 quadrats within a survey area of 4,340 km2. The estimated density was 3.0 (± 0.4 SE) wolverines/1,000 km2 with a coefficient of variation (CV) of 12.0%. In OCF, we sampled 96 (71%) out of 135 quadrats within a survey area of 3,375 km2. The estimated density was 9.7 (± 0.6 SE) wolverines/1,000 km2 with a CV of 6.5%. Our results indicated that the SUPE technique is an efficient method of obtaining precise estimates of wolverine population size under markedly different environmental conditions and population densities. We suggest that, where practical, it may be a less labour-intensive and more cost-effective technique for estimating wolverine abundance compared with techniques that do not use probability sampling of tracks.
A feeding trial was carried out on two captive wolverines Gulo gulo to evaluate methods to assess wolverine diets through scat content. During the feeding trial, wolverines were offered known quantities of five prey species. All scats were collected and their contents analysed. We evaluated four widely used methods of quantifying dietary composition: dry weight, index of relative contribution, frequency of occurrence, and percentage of occurrence. Based on the outcome of this evaluation, percentage of occurrence was found to be the most appropriate method for wolverine diet studies given the extreme variation in prey items (e.g. prey type and age) and undigested items (e.g. hide and bones) in the wolverine's diet. Dry weight may provide additional information on the amount of biomass consumed, which is biologically more meaningful than just the composition assessment derived from using the percentage of occurrence.
Understanding changes in spatial and temporal patterns of harvest is vital for proper management of wolverine Gulo gulo populations. In Alaska, wolverines occupy nearly all areas of the state and are classified as furbearers and big game, with annual harvests averaging 545 (SD = 80) individuals since 1984. Because wolverine reproductive potential and survivorship are relatively low, it is important to understand spatial and temporal harvest dynamics to ensure populations are not overharvested. We analyzed the effects of geographic region, time period and number of harvesters on wolverine harvest using Poisson regression modeling. We also examined local harvest patterns for a portion of south-central Alaska where human population levels and concentrations of roadways differ substantially. Patterns of wolverine harvest during 1984-2003 indicated consistently higher harvest densities (wolverines/1,000 km2) in the southern portion of Alaska. The Poisson regression model (goodness of fit: χ2 = 1300, df = 1288, P = 0.60) estimated mean annual harvest levels (wolverines/1,000 km2) that were higher in South-central (0.35) than in Arctic/West (0.11; P = 0.009) and Interior (0.19; P = 0.001), but no other regional comparisons were significant. Geographic region, time period and number of harvesters were all significant covariates for describing wolverine harvest (P < 0.001 for each). Wolverine harvest densities at the local level indicated that areas with higher harvest densities were well distributed, but that areas with light or no reported harvest also were common and widespread. Our results also indicated that proximity to human population centers or roadways did not necessarily affect harvest densities at a local level. We reviewed the importance of areas with no or light harvest as potential refugia to maintain a sustainable harvest of wolverines.
Wolverines Gulo gulo are found in northern forested wilderness across Canada, in alpine tundra of the western mountains, and in the arctic. They formerly occupied habitats that are now heavily settled by humans in the Prairie Provinces and eastern Canada. Forest harvesting, hydroelectric development, the exploration and development of oil, gas and minerals, transportation corridors and human settlement continue to alter, remove or fragment habitats. About 6% of all current wolverine range in Canada is within parks and protected areas, and 10% of high quality habitats in western Canada are protected. The population estimate for the western population (Yukon to Ontario) is 15,000-19,000 resident wolverines, based on the best available information on densities and areas of occupancy. With the addition of juveniles, the population before the winter trapping season may approach or exceed 20,000. Wolverine populations are apparently benefiting from the cessation of wolf Canis lupus poisoning, harvest closures, advanced trapline and harvest management systems. Recent range recoveries have been recorded in northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, where caribou numbers have increased. Wolverine populations in Canada are stable within the normal range of long-term population fluctuations elsewhere, except locally in southern Alberta and British Columbia where caribou have declined or habitats are becoming fragmented. Wolverines may be extirpated on Vancouver Island. The eastern wolverine population is either extremely rare or extirpated. The COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) status designations are Endangered for the eastern population and Special Concern for the western population.
The geographical distribution and relative density of the wolverine Gulo gulo population in the Great Khingan Mountains, northeastern China, were surveyed during 1996-2000. The wolverine distribution is decreasing and the population size may be < 200 individuals. In the Great Khingan Mountains forestry areas, the wolverine was mainly separated into two small subpopulations within a total area of 80,000 km2. Moreover, since the 1990s no wolverines or signs of wolverine activity have been found in the Altai Mountains, Sinkiang Province, in northwestern China, which has been another main distribution area for the wolverine in China. We suggest that habitat loss, food limitation and poaching are the main reasons for the decline of the wolverine population in China.