Now it's Wolverines threatened by global warming

wolverine 

Wolverines make their home mainly in the boreal forests and tundra regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. (Photo by Vince Maidens, Creative Commons License.)

No mention though of the “adopt a wolverine” program that has proven so popular with polar bears and NGO’s looking for cold cash from the gullible. I guess they just aren’t cuddly enough.  According to Wikipedia:

“The world’s total wolverine population is unknown.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society reported in June 2009 that a wolverine which researchers had been tracking for almost three months had crossed into northern Colorado. Society officials had tagged the young male wolverine in Wyoming near Grand Teton National Park and it had traveled southward for approximately 500 miles. It was the first wolverine seen in Colorado since 1919, and its appearance was also confirmed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Here are some photos of wolverines in northern California in 2008 near Tahoe.

wolverine photo taken in the Tahoe National Forest on March 16, 2008 wolverine photo taken in the Tahoe National Forest on March 16, 2008 wolverine photo taken in the Tahoe National Forest on March 16, 2008

And again in 2009. They say that “Wolverines have not been scientifically confirmed in California since the 1920s.” With a former range like that, I suppose they won’t have trouble adapting to a warmer place. Last time I checked, it was warmer in Colorado and California than in Canada.

Wolverines have been seen in Michigan in the last decade too, the first time in 200 years.

Nature is pretty darn tough, very adaptable, and the wolverine is no exception. IMO, the bigger threat, like with bears, is clashes with human developments. I just don’t buy the claim of this study, note the weasel words “highly uncertain” in the highlighted portion of the press release.

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From NCAR/UCAR: Wolverine population threatened by climate change

BOULDER—The aggressive wolverine may not be powerful enough to survive climate change in the contiguous United States, new research concludes.

Wolverine habitat in the northwestern United States is likely to warm dramatically if society continues to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, according to new computer model simulations carried out at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study found that climate change is likely to imperil the wolverine in two ways: reducing or eliminating the springtime snow cover that wolverines rely on to protect and shelter newborn kits, and increasing August temperatures well beyond what the species may be able to tolerate.

“Species that depend on snow cover for their survival are likely to be very vulnerable to climate change,” says NCAR scientist Synte Peacock, the author of the study. “It’s highly uncertain whether wolverines will continue to survive in the lower 48, given the changes that are likely to take place there.”

Peacock’s research focused on mountainous regions of the Northwest, the primary habitat of the wolverine population in the contiguous United States. The study did not look into the impacts of climate change on regions where wolverines are more numerous, such as Canada, although other research has indicated those areas will likely warm significantly as well.

The study was published last week in Environmental Research Letters. It was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR’s sponsor.

An animal built for the cold

Wolverines make their home mainly in the boreal forests and tundra regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Their thick, oily fur insulates them from frost and large padded paws help them run through deep snow. While some 15,000 or more wolverines are believed to roam Canada and an unknown number in Alaska, only a few dozen to a few hundred are believed to live in the contiguous United States, almost entirely in mountainous areas in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

Wolverines inhabit regions that have late-season snow cover and relatively cool summer temperatures. Female wolverines make their springtime dens in the snow, which provides warmth to the newborn kits and protects them from predators.

Biologists are dubious that the species could survive in regions with little spring snow or significantly higher summertime temperatures. Concerned over habitat loss and the potential threat of climate change, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced in December 2010 that the wolverine warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but delayed that protection because other species took higher priority.

To project the future climate in regions of the contiguous United States where wolverines live, Peacock analyzed results from new simulations carried out by a team of researchers at NCAR using the newest version of the Community Climate System Model (which was developed by scientists at the Department of Energy and NCAR with colleagues at other organizations). She analyzed three scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions: low (carbon dioxide emissions stay at present-day levels until 2020 and then decline to zero by the early 2080s); medium-low (emissions rise slightly until 2040 and then decline sharply toward the end of the century); and high (emissions continue to increase unabated).

In the high emissions scenario, the computer simulations showed spring snow cover nearly or completely vanishing during the second half of this century in present-day wolverine habitat. Similarly, spring snow cover in the medium-low scenario became greatly diminished, with many years experiencing zero snow cover. Under the low emissions scenario, springtime snow cover conditions remained similar to those of the present day.

Synte Peacock 

Synte Peacock (©UCAR, Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media use. For more information, see Media & nonprofit use.*)

The computer projections also showed that August temperatures may increase dramatically. Whereas August temperatures currently top off at about 72 degrees F (22 degrees C) in areas where wolverines live, maximum daily temperatures by the end of the century were projected to frequently exceed 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) under the two higher-emissions scenarios.

“Unless the wolverine is able to very rapidly adapt to summertime temperatures far above anything it currently experiences, and to a spring with little or no snow cover, it is unlikely that it will continue to survive in the contiguous U.S. under a high or medium-low emissions scenario,” the study concludes.

The model simulations also indicated the extent to which climate change may transform the West, where society depends on mountain snowpack. This critical source of water could decrease by a factor of three to four over Idaho, western Montana, and western Wyoming by the end of this century under the high emissions scenario. Even under the medium-low emissions scenario, snowpack could drop by a factor of two to three in these regions.

Peacock checked the accuracy of the model by comparing simulations of late 20th century climate with observations. Results indicated that the model did a good job simulating climate conditions in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Since the model tended to underestimate snowpack in Washington, Peacock did not include that state in the study.

About the article

Title: Projected 21st century climate change for wolverine habitats within the contiguous United States

Author: Synte Peacock

Publication: Environmental Research Letters, January 27, 2011

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Dan

Hold everything! My global warming friends have been telling me that this winter’s cold temperatures and deep snow cover are the result of climate change. How is this not good for wolverines?

Frank K.

I stopped reading after I saw…
“From NCAR/UCAR…” —-> yet another CAGW press release to secure funding [sigh]
and
“the computer simulations showed…” —-> enough said

Bernie

This sounds more like the spiel of those pumping lousy stocks than scientific research. At least with polar bears we could do a count and see one way or the other what is happening to the population.
It would be nice to get a definitive statement on the range of wolverines and the population dynamics in any particular area.

jaymam

Why not move the wolverines and polar bears to Antarctica? There’s record levels of snow and ice there, and plenty of food – millions of penguins, and a few scientists, but those are no loss if they are just looking at the climate!
/sarc

Wondering Aloud

I didn’t see any dogs today therefore their survival is threatened by global warming. There, can I get a huge government funded research grant now?
There never were a lot of wolverines, and if there is some large niche in the ecology that they are required to fill we’d be in a lot of trouble for centuries already. Heck with wolverines I prefer badgers any day.
A little related anecdote; It is widely known that mountain lions do not exist in the wild in Wisconsin. Our DNR tells us so and for years dismissed all sightings as non credible. When two mountain lions were killed the same weekend in auto accidents 200 miles apart the DNR gave a very grudging admission that maybe they did exist.

Joe Lalonde

Let’s put them together in the same room and see who comes out? 🙂

Ralph

“The aggressive wolverine >MAYMAY< transform the West"
I really like the climate change speak, may, might, could, alarmist use when predicting the future weather/climate. It's so exact.

Pamela Gray

Poor, poor things. Maybe they can come live in Enterprise, Oregon along with the cougar that was seen roaming the streets last week.

Harold Ambler

Doesn’t seem like the contiguous U.S. has been their habitat of late anyway:
http://tinyurl.com/4hmxoen
But, putting together the story on ocean ridges and climate models just before this on WUWT, and the information that Marten fossils have been found from the mid-Miocene (or more than 10 million years before present), the animals appear to have survived a warming much like the one computer models claim will befall us any minute.

Bob B

Thanks for the post but I didn’t bother reading past…
Wolverine habitat in the northwestern United States is likely to warm dramatically if society continues to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, according to new computer model simulations carried out at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Gary Pearse

I, and on a different occasion, one of my sons, encountered female wolverines in Northern British Columbia. These are the meanest, most aggressive creatures you ever want to meet. I risked my life climbing a rock ledge, my son jumped into a pickup truck to get away. Its hard for me to imagine predators that could take young away from one of these! Why wouldn’t a scientist mention which predators they are worried about and how abundant are these predators in the lower 48.

ddpalmer

From Ms. Peacocks info at http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~synte/index_uchicago.html
“Much of my work involves using large global ocean general circulation models to investigate the uptake and redistribution of natural and anthropogenic trace gases in the ocean. I have worked mainly with the POP and MICOM ocean models. I am also interested in glacial-interglacial CO2, interpretation of records from deep-sea sediment cores, and I also like to play with box models (which have the beautiful property of actually allowing one to understand exactly what is happening and why).”
So a geophysicist who deals with global ocean circulation and deep sea sediment cores writes a paper on wolverines in the middle of the North American continent.
Correct me if I am wrong but North American is land not ocean and wolverines are land animals not ocean animals.
I also see she likes ‘box models’ because you can actually understand what is happening and why”. Might that be because box models aren’t really good at simulating real world chaotic systems like climates and the oceans?

John from CA

LOL, “adopt a wolverine”.
Wolverines are scavengers and one of the orneriest animals on Earth. They will not have a problem in warmer weather — makes it easier to hunt. Their probably moving into Colorado to pick off chubby tourists. ; )

Espen

It’s easy to be a biology researcher today, you just have to swallow a Warming Camel, like this one: Whereas August temperatures currently top off at about 72 degrees F (22 degrees C) in areas where wolverines live, maximum daily temperatures by the end of the century were projected to frequently exceed 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) under the two higher-emissions scenarios.
… and then you get paid double: A research grant, and an easy research task: Show that there will be dramatic ecosystems changes “when” climate changes from temperate to tropic, arctic to temperate etc.

Bob B

I am putting the final touches on a computer model that is showing a likely increase in chess playing among Wolverines due to the increase in consumption of diet soda among teenage girls.

JohnH

Have they looked outside the window recently ?

David S

This happens with the poley bears as well. The animals are so dumb that when their habitat is threatened by global warming, they move south instead of north where it is colder.

Roger Knights

Biologists are dubious that the species could survive in regions with little spring snow …

No worries then!

Wolverine…. basically a 40 pound weasel with an attitude that the Pitsburgh Steelers defence aspires to attain…..
Interesting that the climate change proponants always seem to select really nasty carnivores as their poster children, Polar bears… 1500 lbs of walk/swimming appetite, wolverines, probably the nastiest critter on the planet… whats next canabalistic tribespeople from some southern pacific island.

Jeff K

I’ve been noticing that articles have been referring to “according to computer model simulations,” more. We can all doubt a human due to bias and such but not a computer model as if it is it’s own entity, without emotion and bias.

Kevin Schurig

But what the AGW believers’ cousins, the cryptozoologists, want to know is if this will affect Bigfoot or the chupacabra? Another pro-AGW article filled with “likely” and “models,” one day one of these people will accidentally conduct real research and will be found in a state of shock at the realization that they had been wrong.

Richard M

Let me understand this … the loss of a couple dozen of these critters is considered an environmental disaster even if what really happened was they migrated to Canada.
Wow, could these scientists find something less valuable to do with OUR money?

jsuther2013

There is so much unscientific and unjustified speculation in this lady’s asinine claims, that I am surprised she dare put her name to it.

Katherine

Seems like no one told her that all the snow coming down in the States is due to global warming. Imagine that.
/sarc

Computer: USD 500
Climate model: USD 5,000
Claiming less snow threatening peacocks wolverines when most of US is covered by mother of all snows: priceless

Jimbo

Biologists are dubious that the species could survive in regions with little spring snow or significantly higher summertime temperatures.

It’s all just pure speculation about what the scary future may bring yet reality says something quite different indeed. Apparently December/January was the snowiest first two months of winter on record in the northern hemisphere.
http://climate.rutgers.edu/snowcover/table_area.php?ui_set=1&ui_sort=1
http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/national-snow-and-ice-data-center-not-particularly-interested-in-snow/

James Goneaux

Well, up where I’m from (Muskoka, about two hours north of Toronto, Canada), the problem is with fishers (little cousins of wolverines). The problem? They eat cats.
The fishers were actually introduced to deal with….porcupines. Now that the porcupine population is under control, the question is now: what to do with an overpopulation of fishers?
So its pretty much an open secret that its “shoot on sight”. Not to mention bringing in the trappers (who are also taking martens, which explains the explosion in the squirrel population, which has led to another culling – to protect the bird feeders).
As well, the government re-introduced elk, which pushed out the moose, which led to a huge increase in the deer population, which has led to starvation…and the cycle continues.

Karl Zimmerman

IIRC, there have been Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a whole lot of years now…

MikeL

Poor Napoleon Dynamite won’t be able to hunting with his uncle in Alaska anymore.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/9064/napoleon-dynamite-hunting-wolverines

Mike

When you have a couple of isolated anecdotes there is clearly no point in paying attention to those silly systematic studies scientists do. And this holds doubly true if the anecdotes confirm what you want to believe!
Regarding the Michigan find: “Raymond Rustem, supervisor of the natural heritage unit in the department’s wildlife division, said the wolverine could have traveled to the state, been released or escaped from captivity. “What it means, who knows?” Rustem said. “When you take a look at the wolverine, there’s always been this debate about whether wolverines ever were a part of Michigan’s recent past. Some evidence shows that, some says no.””
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4374309/ns/technology_and_science-science/
Did that Colorado male find a mate and successfully reproduce? Skeptical minds would want to know.

Craig Goodrich

Ten degrees C?? This article is pure nonsense — just another propaganda contribution to the IPCC’s new “biodiversity” theme, “catastrophic warming” and “catastrophic ocean acicification” both having been laughed off.

Ian W

Its lucky for the wolverine population that global warming is now known to cause so much global snow. Perhaps when the NCAR model has been adjusted for the ‘by warm we mean cold’ and ‘when we say no snow in the foreseeable future, we mean blizzards every winter’, then they will be able to relieve those worried Wyoming wolverines. 😉

“It’s highly uncertain whether wolverines will continue to survive in the lower 48, given the changes that are likely to take place there.”

Hey thanks for that study. I could have told you that for a whole lots less money. A lot of things are uncertain.

Old Goat

I’m afraid that every time I se something that is blamed on either Climate Change, or Global Warming, I tend to switch off, and I’m sure the majority of the public now does the same. It doesn’t ring true, shock, or surprise any more – they’ve called it far too many times. The only solution, it would appear, would be for mankind to commit mass suicide, then things everywhere, and for everything else, will be OK and hunky dory, apparently. But who would be left to confirm this prognosis, I wonder? I’d guess at the Al Gores of this world, who would obviously make sure that THEY survived…

DesertYote

“NGO’s looking for cold cash from the gullible”
Shouldn’t that be “gulo-able”?

It is also highly uncertain that any of the wolverines will read this article, but for those that do, when they look at all the snow in the US right now, they won’t know which way to turn to preserve their species.
Doesn’t really matter what the global temps are, if we wipe out their habitats, they will not be very happy.

Yup, just as with forest fires and other natural disasters.
Suburban sprawl 20 to 50 miles from cities, putting houses in the middle of forests. The Greenies are right about this. Driving 60 miles per day just to get to work is a pointless waste of gasoline, land and time.
If they’d decisively give up the nonsense about warming, maybe the rest of us could listen to the Greenies on this problem!

Montag

“Nature is pretty darn tough, very adaptable, and the wolverine is no exception.”
An excellent argument. This is really top-quality science blogging, I must say. Why doesn’t WUWT rate with Nature, I wonder. Did you try to contact the authors of the wolverine study and tell them nature is pretty darn tough? They are probably totally ignorant about this.

climatebeagle

“Since the model tended to underestimate snowpack in Washington, Peacock did not include that state in the study.”
Hmmm, some “data” (well simulations) was inaccurate, so you just don’t use it? How can this be accepted as science?
Have to find out when the simulations started, doing a “good job” on the late 20th century in 3/4 of the cases may not be that impressive if the start date for the model was the late 20th century.
Also is “good job” a scientific term?

Alex Elul

>Concerned over habitat loss and the potential threat of climate change,….<
So, the real and present danger is not climatechange but habitat loss. The threat from CC is only a potential threeat. We have been living in 'global warming' times for I don't know how many years, with the Main Scream Media telling us, indoctrinating us into believing that the end is nigh. Now it's 2011 and the MSM, propped up by a few scientists are still trying to convince us that the this toad or that wolverine may be threatened by CC. I bet I will not see the day when CC really kicks in, unless they mean a freeze over, 'cause I'm freezing in here.

Jim Barker

When I was a child of 11, camping out with the Cub scouts, near Tippecanoe State park in Indiana, we stumbled across a wolverine lair. It really got the Scout leader excited. I’m not an expert, with models backing up my beliefs, but I would be more inclined to believe that encroaching human habitat is more likely to drive these territorial animals away. Of course, hunting them nearly to extinction didn’t help either.

Actually, I don’t think “losing” the wolverine would be that much of a loss overall.
Like the Polar Bear, does anyone have ANY idea of how DESTRUCTIVE wolverines are? I recall some friends of my parents having one of those, “remaining species” wolverines get into their rather nicely furnished cabin in Wisconsin during the ’70’s.
Complete DESTRUCTION! Also, unlike their relative the Badger, which will avoid a human, a wolverine, WILL attack a human. Cases are rare…because (thankfully) they are “human adverse”.
I’m not sure, however, that growing the wolverine population by a factor of 5 (as the Polar Bears from IGY, 1957..or 10, or 20 would be a wise idea.
Let the critters go the way of the GIANT BEAVER and the SABER TOOTH TIGER! (Both of which are SORELY MISSED/sarc.)

TomLT

I rather expect this one will be a hard sell. Wolverine’s are not cute and cuddly and they have a rather aggressive reputation. Not exactly a good poster animal to elicit sympathy and pathos.

higley7

Since we are not warming, the problem is solved. With all of the snow we have been having, the problem of snow cover should not be a big one. Also, it is assumed that they have to have snow cover to protect their young. They have survived other, warmer periods just fine, s mother does a good job of protecting the kids.

Tom in wonderfully warm Florida

1. “The aggressive wolverine may not be powerful enough to survive climate change in the contiguous United States, new research concludes.”
2. “It’s highly uncertain whether wolverines will continue to survive in the lower 48, given the changes that are likely to take place there.”
I guess they have CONCLUDED that it is HIGHLY UNCERTAIN what the wolverine MAY or MAY NOT be able to do.

Bill Junga

So is there any difference between these computer projections and wolverine scat?The real wildlife biologists used to study the latter.

David S

Well the Wolverines have certainly been doing poorly for the past few years. But that may change now that they have a new coach. 🙂

JP

I think residents of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California are having little sympathy right now, as energy distruptions are causing rolling black outs and furnace shut downs.
Essientially the Greens have gotten much of what they’ve wanted the past 20 years. Fewer refineries, power plants, and fossil fuel exploration are causing energy shortages across much of the US. Our utility companies cannot no longer be counted on to provide basic services once the thermometer goes below 20 deg F. And what will we do if half of the nation goes two or three weeks below 0 deg F (something quite common during the 1960s through 1978)? The EPA continues to force many utility companies to close down coal burning power plants. They seldom grant permits for even natural gas power plants. And the folks in Texas now are seeing how reliable wind turbines are (they built a slew of them during the last decade in West Texas).

mkelly

The most recent drastic climate change was the end of last glaciation. Did the wolverines that lived south of the glacier die off or did they go north? Since mountians were covered where did they go? You should answer the basics before going on to speculation.

Doug in Seattle

I saw a wolverine in Northern California when working there in 1986. This was in the NW corner of the at an elevation of about 5000 ft about 10 miles north of the community of Cecilville.
It was a lighter color than the ones I was used to seeing in Northern Canada, but it definitely a wolverine (Canadian ones were a dull dark brown while the one I saw in California was a reddish brown color).
I did report it to the local Forest Ranger, but he said he doubted it was a wolverine as they were extinct. I expect is was not recorded as a sighting (or perhaps as not confirmed).
I expect such a report might not have been too welcome at that time, since it might have resulted in the loss of local forest jobs.