Prioritizing Areas of Wolverine Habitat Connectivity in the Western United States

Ms Kathleen Carroll1, Dr. Andrew Hansen1, Dr. Robert Inman2

1Montana State University, Bozeman, United States, 2Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, United States

In the conterminous United States, wolverines (Gulo gulo) occupy semi-isolated patches of public lands. Connectivity among this metapopulation is essential to the persistence of this species in the western U.S. However, maintaining habitat connectivity presents several challenges: 1) the scale that the wolverine metapopulation functions over is large, 2) connective habitat is often privately-owned land, 3) high-quality and connective wolverine habitats may shift in the future due to climate and land-use change, and 4) current models of wolverine connectivity do not account for these changes. Our goal was to provide land trusts, which work to secure conservation easements on private lands, with maps of priority connectivity areas so that they can consider these values in their decisions.  To achieve this goal, we used a second-order resource selection function model to determine areas of high-quality wolverine habitat and prioritize connectivity zones. This included an analysis of how wolverine habitat may shift under various future climate change and land-use scenarios so that our results are valuable over the long-term. We predicted high-quality wolverine habitat and connectivity at 2010, 2030, and 2050 and evaluated opportunities for conservation action across the four-state area that is currently occupied by breeding wolverines (ID, MT, WA, WY). We used Linkage Mapper 2.0.0 at each time period along with dispersal data to determine areas valuable for connectivity but subject to development at this time (2010). This analysis provides specific guidance on areas that are most valuable for long-term conservation of wolverines in the lower 48 United States.


Kathleen Carroll is a Ph.D. Candidate from Montana State University. Kathleen completed two undergraduate degrees from the University of Maine in Wildlife Ecology and Marine Science cum laude and a Masters of Science from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Environmental Science. She has studied wildlife in Africa, South America, and North America. She has backgrounds in wildlife conservation, marine biology, behavioral ecology, landscape ecology, statistics, education, and science communication. Her understanding across a broad range of disciplines has provided her with a unique perspective on connectivity science and management strategies across a range of taxa.

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