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Wolverines may soon be listed under the Endangered Species Act

A wolverine in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee, Calif. walks on a snowy ground with alpine trees
Chris Stermer
California Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP
A wolverine in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee, Calif., a rare sighting of the predator in the state. Wildlife advocates want the snow-loving wolverine protected as it becomes vulnerable to a warming planet.

Wolverines could be listed as a threatened species by the end of November. That would end a years-long battle over the fate of the reclusive mammal.

Wolverines are rare with less than an estimated 400 living in the continental United States. Advocates like the Center of Biological Diversity’s Andrea Zaccardi would like to see them come back.

“If the wolverine is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, we should expect to see that federal agencies will have to consult with the [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service on the impact to wolverines of their proposed projects,” Zaccardi said. 

That could mean far-reaching changes not only for the wolverine, but also for planned developments in the Mountain West and Alaska.

“For example, if the Forest Service wants to log in an area that is high elevation, the alpine habitat that wolverines typically use for denning, they would consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service as to what the impacts of that project would be on the wolverine and potentially make changes to the project to protect wolverine habitat,” Zaccardi said.

The wolverine was almost added to the list in 2013, but the Fish and Wildlife Service decided against the measure, citing a lack of scientific evidence.

“At the 11th hour, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service backtracked and withdrew its proposed listing decision and instead decided that there was scientific uncertainty, and therefore, they were not going to provide federal protection for the Wolverines,” Zaccardi said.

The agency is under court order to make a final determination on the status of the wolverine by November 27th.

As a general assignment reporter and backup host, I gather news and write stories for broadcast, and I fill in to host for Morning Edition or All Things Considered when the need arises.