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Local Citizens Monitor Elusive Wildlife, Wolverines


Contact: Melanie Gade, mgade@defenders.org; (202) 772-0288

Date: April 27, 2016

Local Citizens Monitor Elusive Wildlife, Wolverines

Free for use multi-media and b-roll clips for broadcast, web channels

MISSOULA, Mont. – From December to May this year, 150 local volunteers participated in a citizen science monitoring effort led by Defenders of Wildlife in partnership with the Bitterroot National Forest. The citizen scientists collected data and photos on rare carnivores, such as wolverines, to aid with forest planning efforts and contribute to the broader understanding of where these animals live.  

Kylie Paul, Rockies and Plains representative for Defenders of Wildlife, started the Wolverine Watchers: Bitterroot Wildlife Monitoring Program in 2014. The project has three primary goals:

  1. collect wildlife data on species including wolverines, fishers, lynx, martens, and others
  2. engage locals in wildlife and public land conservation, and
  3. enhance partnerships among  the community, conservationists and state and federal agencies.

“Not only are these data valuable to help guide management and increase understanding of where these rare wolverines, fishers and other critters live, it’s also a fantastic way to engage locals in wildlife conservation and management,” said Kylie Paul. “It's a strong model we hope others will continue to use and expand upon.”

Now in its second year, the Wolverine Watchers Program assists in wildlife data collection to aid forestry and wildlife management by relying on the support of volunteers. This winter, program volunteers maintained and recorded data from 23 different monitoring stations -- each equipped with motion-triggered cameras and hair snares – collecting DNA hair samples and photo evidence of which wildlife species visit each site. The sites cover areas outside those where the Bitterroot was able to monitor, adding to and strengthening the work of agencies, biologists, other wildlife managers and researchers.  Data are compiled and submitted to the Bitterroot National Forest and other wildlife data collection entities. Over 20 species have been recorded at the sites with over 13,000 photos of wildlife.

This year, volunteers range in age from seven to 70 and include students from University of Montana, a women’s book club, retirees, backcountry skiers and aspiring biologists. Several local conservation and outdoor recreation organizations assisted in recruiting these volunteers for this effort.

B-roll package:

All photos and video are free and available for use by the media, when credited to Defenders of Wildlife:

  • Overview video featuring Defenders’ Kylie Paul, manager of the Wolverine Watchers Program. 
  • Time-lapse of wildlife photos from Bear Creak Monitoring Station.
  • Images from camera traps show elusive wildlife, including wolverines. 
  • B-roll of volunteers with the Wolverine Watchers Program.
  • Wolverine Watcher volunteers share why they participate.
    • Colleen Hoeben of Corvallis, Montana joined Wolverine Watchers due to her special interest in the health of the Bitterroot National Forest.
    • Dia Davis of Missoula, Montana says it’s a fun, exciting experience every time she goes out in the field to collect data.
    • Jim McCormack of Stevensville, Montana volunteered his time because he believes that sound forest management in the Bitterroot is contingent on having reliable information about where imperiled species live in the forest:  

Background: Rare forest carnivores like wolverinesfishers and lynx -- are of conservation concern throughout the Northern Rockies.  Adequate information on these species’ distribution, habitat requirements, and threats to their survival can be difficult to acquire due to their low population numbers and also because they live in remote locations. Because of this data shortage in the Bitterroot and elsewhere, land and wildlife management agencies are sometimes required to make decisions without adequate information about how those decisions affect imperiled wildlife.


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