Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

Category Archives: Mustelidae

Wolverine Uses Highway Overpass in Banff Park

Wolverines are in the local news again!

A wolverine has finally used a wildlife overpass to get across the deadly TransCanada Highway in Banff National Park – the first recorded crossing in 15 years for this species.

It’s the first time a wolverine has ever been photographed on one of the multi-million-dollar overpass structures in Banff, which were built to stop roadkill, help animals access critical habitat and keep populations connected.

Read more about the highway passes that have seen 200,000 crossings by wildlife, including grizzly and black bears, wolves and ungulates.

From Highway Wilding 

This is a tiny fraction of the amazing photos of wildlife that have been captured in the last 15 years on wildlife crossing structures that span the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park.

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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.

Speaking of Wild Tracks: Identified

I should first clarify that incredible photo of animal tracks in the snow was (unfortunately) not taken by me. It was taken by a friend, who with his sons, was visiting northern Alberta earlier this month. They saw these marks in the snow and were completely stumped as to what could have made them. They mentioned their sightings to a local man, and he said he had seen similar tracks earlier in the week and was equally stumped. Then he walked around a bend in the road and saw the culprits – a pair of Northern River Otters.

Thse playful little animals are active year round, even when water freezes in winter. They are mainly nocturnal, with some activity at dusk and dawn, and you have to be incredibly lucky to see one in the wild.

North American River Otters typically travel in water and are able to swim long distances under ice during the winter. Family groups may travel long distances over land from one watershed to another. When traveling on land, they often slide instead of bounding, especially if snow is present, or when going downhill on slippery ground. When snow sliding, they push forward with their back legs, while the front feet are tucked under the belly.

I managed to find this video on YouTube that gives a clear picture of how those tracks were made in the Jan 6 photo. How cool are these animals?!

Speaking of Wild Tracks…

What kind of critter do you think left these tracks in the snow? This picture was taken in northern Alberta, Canada, just south of the Northwest Territories border. Leave your best guess in the comments, and no they aren’t cross country ski tracks!