Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

Category Archives: Carnivores

Using Citizen Science To Conserve The Wolverine

You should know now that wolverines will be featured often on this blog. The animal wolverine, not the one with the metal blades in his hands.

These almost-mythical, cantankerous denizens of the deep boreal forest are my favorite carnivore. My Wild Carnivore website has been sending a percentage of proceeds from the sale of my wolverine t shirt to The Wolverine Foundation since I started the site. I have books, videos and scientific papers on wolverines. If you’re reading this blog, get ready for wolverines.

The Alberta Conservation Association is working on a field research project using non-scientists to gather data:

Project goals: to engage non-scientists in conservation actions through participating in the collection of information on a data-deficient species; to protect key wilderness areas in the face of expanding human pressures and a changing climate; to increase the public’s understanding of the importance of intact wilderness to the Canadian identity

The wolverine is an icon of Canadian wilderness. They are most commonly associated with areas where human disturbance is low, but we know relatively little about why this is or what future development and climate change might mean to this species. They will battle a grizzly bear for food, but will they be able to take on industrial development or changing snow conditions? Volunteers and citizen science can help us find out. For this project, volunteers from the Alberta Trappers’ Association will participate in a unique initiative by collecting information on where wolverines live, the type of habitat that is important, and the obstacles they face in an uncertain future. Trappers, who wish to protect wilderness for future generations, will identify wolverine tracks and monitor remote camera stations. The non-invasive (live) collection of hair samples from hair snag stations will provide DNA. Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) biologists will use these pieces of information to assess habitat occupancy and population size. Habitat change modelling predictions and location information from collared wolverines will be incorporated into our online communication to show the size of area and habitat features that need to be protected for wolverine populations to remain healthy. This will be part of an education campaign to engage the public in protecting key wilderness areas. ACA will ensure that volunteer-produced information is collected consistently and accurately. This will enable us to combine the best on-the-ground knowledge with scientific data to produce results that will be accepted and understood by a wide audience.

The latest Project Update reveals how they managed to capture DNA samples by clipping some hair from a male wolverine. Not the usual method, but it appears to be effective! Check their rare photographs of a wild wolverine.


The Week In Carnivores #15

The Week In Carnivores #14

Black Bears Prefer Minivans

Locking your car doors in bear country  isn’t going to keep the big bruins out. A hungry bear will happily rip the door right off if he smells food inside.

In Yosemite National Park, California, American black bears are a serious threat to cars. On most nights, they patrol the campground to browse the scents in the parking lot.

Three workers with the US Department of Agriculture have published a study in the Journal of Mammalogy after they analyzed the bear break in data from 2001 to 2007, when the bears had vandalized over 1000 vehicles.

Minivans were first or second on the hit list, despite the fact they represented only a small fraction of the automobiles present in the parking lots. For the years 2004 and 2005, the vans made up only 7 percent of parked vehicles, but nearly 30 percent of them were looted. No other vehicle was raided so disproportionately.

While it’s impossible to know why the bears choose these vehicles, we can make a few assumptions.

Minivans are family cars designed for those with babies and young children. More children generally means more crumbs, and possibly stored food items to keep the kids happy. Manna for a bear’s nose!

Black bears quickly learn how to maximize food resources in any new habitat as a matter of survival. Over time, the bears in the park have probably learned to associate the minivans with greater potential reward, and are just foraging selectively as they do in the wild.

The energy costs of opening these roaming pantries are significant. It takes a lot of work for the bear to tear off doors and rip out seats. They must be confident the effort will be worth it.

Do the minivans really contain more food, or are they just easier for the bears to break into?

It would be very interesting to see a further study on why the bears prefer these vehicles. If they’re chosen because they’re easier to break into, both the auto makers and the families that purchase them might be interested.

My money is on the food hoards. Anyone who has travelled with small children knows how much food you have to take along. Bears aren’t going to go through all that physical work unless they’re pretty sure of a reward, and it seems to me a minivan is a logical place to look for a variety of tasty treats.

Featured Tee: Big Cat Collage

Big Cat T Shirt Collage

The ultimate wild cat shirt, seven beautiful felines grace the front of this dark khaki tee.
100% preshrunk cotton. Adult sizes M, L, XL Item FT009 $ 15.75 US

Carnivore Coffee

Are you a coffee gourmet? If you love a really good cup of java, you will probably like the world’s most expensive coffee – it is unique!

In Indonesia, ‘Kopi’ is the word for coffee, and ‘Luwak’ is the local name for a small carnivore called an Asian Palm Civet. Civets are in the same family as the Mongoose (Viverridae), and are found only in southeast Asia.

Although they are carnivores, Palm Civets also eat a lot of fruit. They’re especially fond of the bright red cherries (beans) of the coffee plant. The beans pass through the Civet’s digestive tract whole, after fermenting in their stomach. The animal then defecates the beans.

I cannot imagine the thought process of the first person to look at defecated coffee beans and decide ‘Hmm, I bet these would make a good drink’. (But then I can’t imagine what the first person to milk a cow was thinking either).

The nocturnal Civets eat only the ripest and sweetest berries, so coffee farmers would often find the best of their crop missing in the morning. The animals were hunted as pests, and featured often on the dinner menu.

Small coffee farmers often survive at a subsistence level, where every penny earned can make a difference in their lives. Hoping to salvage their crop, the farmers began picking up the defecated coffee beans. They discovered the resulting brew had a unique flavor and aroma, without a bitter taste.

In contrast to the earlier hunting of the Civets as pests, the animals are now working for the company. They are either caged and fed coffee cherries, or allowed to roam the coffee plantation inside a boundary. The beans take about a day and a half to pass through the animal.

Then they are gathered by hand.

After a wash in a forest stream, the beans are dried in the sun before being sold to a company that roasts and exports the coffee beans.

Kopi Luwak is the world’s rarest and most expensive coffee. In the Philippines, only 500 kg are produced each year, and once roasted, sells for $115US per kilogram.

In our crowded world, conservation only works if the wildlife has a value to man. With the rapidly increasing number of gourmet coffee drinkers around the world, I suspect the future of the Asian Palm Civet is pretty secure.


If you’re the adventurous type, Kopi Luwak Arabica coffee is available from various US websites, ranging in price from $190.00 to $350.00 per pound. If anyone has tried this unique coffee, let us know what it was like in the comments below. We would love to give it a try, but at those prices, it’s going to have to be a gift from someone!

Featured Tee: Snow Leopard Protector

Snow Leopard T Shirt

These beautiful, bright eyed snow leopards just jump from this stunning light blue tee. The most adorable shirt we’ve ever carried! 100% preshrunk, lightweight cotton. Adult sizes M, L, XL Item FT003 $15.75 US

The Week In Carnivores #9

This is a weekly roundup of news items featuring the wild carnivores of the world. If you miss the news during the week, check our blog on Fridays!






Waterproof Cats

Of course cats like water. Just ask a jaguar, or a tiger, fishing cat, flat-headed cat…

I recently came across this absolutely stunning HD video from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Woodland Park is far and away my favorite zoo, and I’ve visited over 30 in North America. At this zoo, the enclosures are designed from the animals’ point of view, not the publics’. I know a lot of zoos say they do this, but Woodland Park has truly mastered the art of putting the animals first, while still allowing the public to see them.

The jaguar is strongly associated with water, and thrives in riverine habitat along lakes, rivers and streams. They are also found in seasonally flooded lowland rainforest, so they’re no stranger to the wet stuff. And at this zoo they even have their own pool.

The keepers have put fish in places where the jaguar will have to work to get food, just like they do in the wild. This keeps them active, and makes them think, as they have to hunt for their meal.

Have a look as this beautiful spotted cat hunts for his dinner, and goes for a dip, all in complete safety from the poachers and rainforest destruction in his native habitat.

The Week In Carnivores #7