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Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

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Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby johnm » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:06 pm

Update on reintroduction of Wolverine(s) to the Sierra:

http://www.iws.org/projects_wolv_reintro.html

Researchers now believe the Sierra Wolverine sightings the last couple of years may be a male that migrated on his own from Idaho or the general area.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby RoryKuykendall » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:07 pm

This is a really interesting topic. I absolutely love Wolverines and seeing a wild one in California would be a dream come true. HOWEVER - I'm not sure that the high sierra is quite the wolverine wonderland that it may seem.

This quote highlights what I'm talking about:

"The high elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains provided habitat features similar to those supporting wolverines at more northern latitudes."

Yeah, that's true,but wolverines don't EAT habitat! They eat dead ungulates like mountain goats, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. Other than mule deer (which tend to avoid the high country) and a critically endangered population of Bighorn Sheep, California can't even begin to match the "more northern latitudes" in this department.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby mountainsandsound » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:51 am

Sounds cool, but I'm sure they'd wind up there on their own eventually.

RoryKuykendall wrote:Yeah, that's true,but wolverines don't EAT habitat! They eat dead ungulates like mountain goats, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. Other than mule deer (which tend to avoid the high country) and a critically endangered population of Bighorn Sheep, California can't even begin to match the "more northern latitudes" in this department.


They actually eat anything from mice and shrews to moose or caribou, dead or alive. They are very resourceful generalist predators and scavengers. Living in very low densities, having extremely large home ranges, a not too large body size, and hunting/scavenging only for themselves (rather than a whole pack) are traits that give them a lot of options. I don't think finding prey will be a problem. But a disappearing winter snowpack would be.

Would be amazing to see one in the wild. A once-in-a-lifetime type thing for most folks.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby splattski » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:09 am

Here's a wolverine in the northern wilds of Idaho:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ramihz/3761016946/
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby RoryKuykendall » Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:06 am

They actually eat anything from mice and shrews to moose or caribou, dead or alive. They are very resourceful generalist predators and scavengers. Living in very low densities, having extremely large home ranges, a not too large body size, and hunting/scavenging only for themselves (rather than a whole pack) are traits that give them a lot of options.


This is all absolutely correct. Thank you for the clarification. It just seems to me that they thrive most in places where there are lots of big ungulate carcasses to feed on and that's what I was referring to. I'm sure that California could support a scattered population, and I agree that they will probably wind up here anyway. It's possible that they already have. I'm just a little dubious about the wisdom of reintroduction.

What happens if reintroduced wolverines start preying on the endangered bighorn sheep in the eastern sierra? Haven't they already had to cull the mountain lion population up there to protect sheep? Now they're going to reintroduce another potential predator?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/2 ... 84593.html
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby RoryKuykendall » Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:21 am

From that article I linked to:

"A whole host of species depend on the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep for their existence," Stephenson said. "Some say the wolverine disappeared from the Sierra Nevada alpine environment when the sheep declined."

So wolverines disappeared from the Sierra Nevada because the bighorn sheep declined, and now they're going to reintroduce wolverines even though the bighorn sheep population hasn't recovered yet?
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby lcarreau » Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:22 am

I've never seen Wolverine, except on the BIG screen. Gotta admit, those creatures are pretty COOL ... I hope they come back soon :!:

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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby mountainsandsound » Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:49 am



Cool article. I guess I never knew there were sheep in CA. Lions vs. sheep reminds me of when a few sea lions learned to line up below the dams on the Columbia River to feast on endangered Chinook salmon. I think some of them were eventually shot by fish and wildlife. The predators of sheep would stabilize in their numbers eventually- starvation, less offspring, etc... But with sheep numbers at only 400, there isn't too much margin for error. I wonder if there used to be more ungulates in that area before that took some of the predation pressure away from sheep. Or maybe grizzlies could have played a role in keeping lions down back then. Interesting.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby The Chief » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:19 am

Both Tom and Becky in the article you posted RoryKuykendall, work out of the CA F&G office here in Bishop.

Both know of and were part my three different Wolverine sighting Reports three & four years ago that included pieces of potential wolverine scat. Both are well aware of the positive test reports that ensued from the Idaho Wolverine Research Ctr for the two different evidences of scat that I submitted with my sightings. Unfortunately, due to strict funding the last three years, neither could facilitate a wolverine research program in the areas of my sightings.

One of the two different confirmed Wolverine Scat piles I submitted:
Image


They are there. And they don't take down sheep. Their range is so immense, up to 200 miles and in this case, probably more.

No, I won't tell exactly where I saw them. I will say that all three were out of the Pine Creek T/H.


PS: All the local's knows that Wheeler Crest (both east and west) has the biggest sheep herd. Go up to Tamarack Lake and Broken Finger Pass outta of Rock Creek Lake, and you will see both Sheep and Mountain Lion co-existing on a normal level. Hell, I almost hit two of em with my truck late last Fall driving up on Pine Creek Road on the way to one of my regular crags in PC.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby johnm » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:35 am

Interesting article about the California Wolverine nicknamed "Buddy". The attached article shows a map of the area he generally roams. Hopefully he stays clear of highway 80.

http://www.sierrawatch.org/2011/02/lone-wolverine-continues-to-roam-sierra/
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby RoryKuykendall » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:01 am

I wonder if there used to be more ungulates in that area before that took some of the predation pressure away from sheep. Or maybe grizzlies could have played a role in keeping lions down back then.


The ecological history (pre-white man) of the high sierra has always been mysterious to me. My understanding is that the real heart of wildlife activity in California was at lower elevations. Apparently, there were 500,000 tule elk in the central valley when Europeans first arrived. There were also native Tule Elk in the Owens Valley. The big Grizzlies preferred the valleys and coast where they could feed on abundant salmon and steelhead in the rivers. There were lots of pronghorn in the Central Valley too. I'm not sure about Bison. Meanwhile, in the high sierra, it's thought that there were never more than 1,000 or so Bighorn Sheep. There were never any Mountain Goats and never any Moose.

It's hard too say how wolverines would have fit into the picture. There were certainly a few in the high country, and I would guess there were some down in the Valley munching on leftover elk.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby RoryKuykendall » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:22 am

The Chief,

That picture is awesome. I'm jealous and impressed, but not surprised, that you've seen wolverines up there.

I didn't mean to suggest that wolverines were going to start "taking down" bighorn sheep. But back when there 1,000+ sheep in the high sierra, there were more bighorn sheep carcasses for wolverines to get to. Now there are less bighorn sheep and less wolverines. If the high sierra bighorn sheep population were to grow back to its historic levels of 1000+, it's likely that the small wolverine population that already exists up there would grow accordingly - probably augmented naturally by wolverines like "Buddy" who came down from Idaho all by himself .

To be clear, I understand that wolverines don't feed exclusively on ungulate carcasses - but they are very very good at getting to fallen goat and sheep carcasses in hard to reach places. For this reason, there is a certain connection between healthy wolverine populations and healthy sheep/goat populations.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby mountainsandsound » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:40 pm

RoryKuykendall wrote: My understanding is that the real heart of wildlife activity in California was at lower elevations.


I think that is a key point. The same phenomenon occurred in the Rockies. Grizzlies used to roam around on the western plains (where food was much more abundant) whereas now they are confined to the mountains. It is true with other animals as well. The mountains aren't as productive of an environment as lower elevation grasslands, but they do resist human habitation. The loss of elk in most of California is probably a huge blow to the integrity of the ecosystem. Could be a big impediment to wolf recovery. With that food source and others gone or diminished, predators would return at fairly low densities. If Fish and Game wants to reintroduce wolverines, they would do so with that in mind.

And Chief, I never thought I would express this feeling to another person, but I am jealous of you for finding shit. And I am ashamed to admit I've never been to the Sierras :cry: But one of these days I will either A: backpack the JMT or B: snag a temp biologist job with the forest service or the parks service down there.
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby The Chief » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:41 pm

When I was an Instructor at the USN's "Survival" school in the Rangley, Maine area, I assisted the States F&G guys do a sight inventory of the local Wolverine population. One of my fellow instructors got this shot of a fella that was pretty much a perm fixtures at our RTL. We named him "Buddy" as he became so to many of us that remained out in the field for any length of time. Especially during the Winter months....
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Re: Wolverine reestablishment efforts in the Sierra

Postby Vitaliy M. » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:45 pm

Code: Select all
included pieces of potential wolverine scat.


So I guess you knew how wolverine scat looks from working in Maine? Interesting stuff.

I have seen tracks that looked like wolverine tracks in Sierra. But I am not an expert in tracks to make a good judgment.
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