“Tracking a ghost” or how to observe the elusive wolverine

Known better from comic books than real-life research, wolverines are among the world’s most mysterious creatures. But scientists in Alberta are managing the heroic feat of capturing and collaring them in order to learn more about the elusive – and vicious – creatures.

“It’s pretty surreal to be looking into the trap and have this creature inside that’s so reclusive,” Matthew Scrafford, a University of Alberta PhD student who is spearheading a project to track the animals, recently told the Edmonton Journal.

A number of log traps, which resemble mini log cabins, were placed in the boreal forest outside of High Level in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta in November.

wolverinetrap

Within the first 12 days, the research crew captured and collared five wolverines. The team hopes to place GPS tracking devices on 13 animals by this April, in order to study their behaviour, habitat, population distribtuion and impacts from local industry.

The Alberta Conservation Association  is also involved in the so-called Wolverine Project and has kicked in a $20,000 research grant. It is also fundraising for the collars, which cost $3,100 each, but it is pretty far off its goal.

“We still need 6 GPS radio collars for the study,” the group notes on its website. “It’s part of our overall goal of understanding how wolverines interact, where they live, how much distance they cover, how big their home ranges are, and where we should focus our conservation efforts. The plan? To make sure these elusive and storied creatures remain part of Alberta’s landscape.”

Mike Jokinen, who is a biologist with association, is also following the progress of the project on film.

The Alberta Trappers’ Association is also part of the partnership. These experts of the land are offering their input, data and advice in an exercise that is generally considering “tracking a ghost.” The organizations previously got together to lure wolverines with beaver carcasses (an apparent delicacy to the wolverine palate) to specially-built platforms so their behaviour could be observed. The structures were equipped with clips that would snatch hair samples to be later used for DNA analysis and rigged with remote cameras, which caught some pretty cool images.

h/t Edmonton Journal

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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