Photo by Dale Pedersen

Fearless But Vulnerable

Wolverines are a member of the weasel family, related to river otters and martens.  They are superbly adapted to cold, snowy, alpine environments. They live above treeline and in high elevation forests.

Wolverines’ ruggedness is legendary. They roam vast territories, eat mostly carcasses of dead animals and small mammals, raise their young in deep snow dens, and climb thousands of vertical feet through avalanche chutes.

Historically, wolverines ranged south from Canada and Alaska, through the mountainous regions of the West to California, Utah, and Colorado. Today, wolverines inhabit high-elevation areas of the Northern Cascades in Washington, and the northern Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. There are fewer than 400 wolverines in the contiguous US. They are vulnerable to climate change and protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  

Wolverines in Colorado

Colorado’s wolverine population went extinct due to unregulated trapping and poisoning in the early 1900s. The last wolverine confirmed in Colorado was a lone male who wandered 500 miles from the Tetons in Wyoming to central Colorado in 2009, and then to North Dakota where he was shot. Colorado continues to have prime habitat for wolverines, but female wolverines tend to stay closer to where they were born and are unlikely to make the difficult journey to Colorado.

Restoring Wolverines To Colorado

Wolverines depend on high alpine habitats and because of this they are vulnerable to climate change. Climate change projections suggest that wolverines could lose up to 63% of their snowy habitat in the lower-48 by the year 2085. Fortunately, Colorado’s wolverine habitat is projected to stay snowier and colder than other parts of the west. 

Colorado has the largest area of unoccupied habitat for wolverines, an estimated 7 million acres, representing 20 percent of all of the habitat in the lower 48. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) estimates that Colorado can support roughly 100-180 wolverines. Reintroducing wolverines to Colorado could increase the wolverine population in the Western U.S. by 20 percent or more. 

Wolverines need Colorado. Reintroducing wolverines to Colorado is the best way to give them a chance to survive as the climate changes. Rocky Mountain Wild leads a coalition of conservation organizations dedicated to bringing wolverines back to Colorado.

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Wolverine Reintroduction Facts

Wolverine Reintroduction FAQs