Wolverines at Risk in Canada

By Julia King

Wolverine Image Credit: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) found the wolverine (Gulo gulo), and 13 other species, to be of special concern during a meeting last month. COSEWIC, an independent group of government and non-government experts, lists a species as special concern when a combination of biological factors and identified threats indicate that the species may become threatened or endangered in the near future. The wolverine, which is sensitive to human disturbance, is experiencing declines in its southern range due to habitat fragmentation from increased industrial development.

Although COSEWIC has listed the wolverine as a species of special concern, the species is not automatically listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). The Minister of the Environment must bring the species before the cabinet for consideration for federal listing under SARA. The government can decide to not list the species, and has denied 30 recommended species listings since 2004. Environment Canada is asking hunters and trappers associations in communities throughout Nunavut to comment on the proposed federal listing of wolverines by January 15, 2015, to help inform the cabinet’s decision.

COSEWIC also found 14 species to be endangered and six to be threatened. However it is uncertain how quickly the Minister of the Environment will bring these species to the cabinet for potential federal listing. Over 100 species that have been reviewed by COSEWIC have not yet been brought to the cabinet. Delaying to list a species may create more problems for the species’ recovery as some recovery actions such as the designation of critical habitat cannot occur until a species is federally listed.

Sources: CBC News (December 2, 2014), Globe and Mail (December 1, 2014), and Nunatsiaq Online (December 2, 2014)