Add the tenacious snow-loving wolverine to the list of species imperiled by climate change.
The wolverine was recommended Friday for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The Fish and Wildlife Service says wolverines should be listed as “threatened” because warming temperatures are shrinking their habitat.
These hardy members of the weasel family thrive in high elevations and deep snow, where they dig dens to raise their young.
In the past 50 years or so, wolverine populations have begun to recover from heavy trapping and poisoning in the early 1900s.
“This is one of the few cases where things are looking pretty rosy right now but the future scenario is one that doesn’t look good,” said Shawn Sartorius, the lead wolverine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
If the recommendation goes forward, the wolverine will join the polar bear and several types of seals for protection under the Endangered Species Act as warmer temperatures shrink their habitats.
Wildlife managers think there are around 300 wolverines left in the lower 48 states, including Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
Some environmental groups want to use the wolverine’s plight to leverage tighter restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re glad that (the Fish and Wildlife Service) has recognized that climate change is a serious threat to the wolverine and other species,” said Noah Greenwald with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Portland office. “It’s an important marking point. This is a charismatic and interesting wildlife species that we’re at risk of losing because of climate change.”
Because the wolverine is being listed as threatened, the government will not consider limits on snowmobiling, skiing, or other outdoor recreation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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