Wolverine biologist Matt Scrafford spent three winters capturing a number of these wily predators in northern Alberta. The wolverines were then fitted with GPS collars and tracked across an area of the province crisscrossed with logging and oil and gas service roads.
Scrafford, who joined Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada in 2017, had a strong hunch that the wolverines would do their best to stay away from the roads, but he sought to create a more detailed picture of how wolverines react to roads. He and his team tracked not only where the wolverines went in their Alberta forest habitat, but also how they behaved in different parts of their extensive territories. To do that, they used the GPS tracking to also calculate how quickly wolverines were moving and how much time they spent in specific areas, especially near roads.
Wolverines require very large areas of habitat to scavenge, hunt, and raise young. When an area has a high density of resource access roads (i.e. for oil and gas exploration, forestry and mining), it becomes risky for wolverines to travel and makes it difficult for the animals to find large, intact areas where the risk is lower. Further, roads can also increase the time it takes a wolverine to navigate through its territory if the animal is inclined to avoid roads.
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Photo credits: Banner | William Halliday © WCS Canada