A debate over whether the wolverine needs Endangered Species Act protection has prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend its deadline for making the decision on that question.
The agency says it's allowed to extend the deadline "when there is substantial scientific disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the available data relevant to the decision at issue."
"During the peer review process on our proposed rule to list the wolverine as threatened, we received a variety of opinions from the scientific community concerning the information we used to develop the proposed rules," the agency said in a release Tuesday. "Specifically, some peer reviewers questioned the information we used to describe wolverine habitat, and estimates of the likely impacts to wolverine habitat from future climate change. As a result, we reopened the comment period from October 31 to December 2, 2013 and received additional comments regarding the science behind our proposal.
"In response, we will be extending the deadline for the final listing decision by six months to further evaluate areas of scientific disagreement and uncertainty as they relate to the wolverine listing decision."
Under that decision, the agency said it will decide whether the wolverine deserves ESA protection by August 4, 2014.
Climate change is viewed as the major obstacle to wolverine recovery. These opportunistic carnivores -- they are known to scour avalanche chutes for animals killed in slides -- once roamed wide and far across the continental United States. Historical populations were found in the coastal mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington, and they roamed the Rocky Mountains from Glacier National Park on the Canadian border all the way south to Taos, New Mexico, east into the Great Lakes region, and even in the Northeast.
But female wolverines build their dens in snowﬁelds, and warmer winters are shrinking those snowfields. Currently, FWS officials say wolverine populations are restricted to the North Cascades Range in Washington and the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
At the same time, the public comment period on that matter also will be reopened. You may obtain copies of the notice and proposed rules on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2012–107 for the proposed threatened status for North American wolverine. Copies of the proposed rules are also available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolverine/.
"In addition, during the period of the six-month extension, we will be formally engaging with experts in the scientific community to further evaluate areas of scientific disagreement and uncertainty as they relate to the wolverine listing decision," agency officials said.