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Wolverine Removed from Threatened Species List

Aug 13, 2014 01:23 PM EDT

Wolverines were removed from the threatened species list, US wildlife managers announced Tuesday, outraging conservationists fighting to protect this rare animal.

Last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had plans to add the North American wolverine to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following scientific evidence that their numbers were decreasing due to climate change.

The service had said global warming was reducing mountain snows the animals use to dig dens and store food.

Now, as of Tuesday, federal wildlife managers are scrapping this proposal, saying that there is "insufficient evidence" that climate change would harm wolverines.

"After carefully considering the best available science, the Service has determined that the effects of climate change are not likely to place the wolverine in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future," FWS spokesman Gavin Shire said in a statement.

The listing would have banned trapping of wolverines, which are prized for their fur, and imposed restrictions on snowmobiling and other winter recreation in areas inhabited by the animals, Reuters reported.

An estimated 300 wolverines, members of the weasel family, are left in the Lower 48 states, most of which inhabit the high country of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The decision to revoke official protection of this species, which had previously declined due to years of hunting, trapping and poisoning, naturally outraged conservationists.

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, believes Tuesday's verdict was part of a disturbing trend by the Obama administration of managing imperiled wildlife based on pressure by states and industry rather than science.

"All of the science points to the wolverine being in serious trouble. The Service's own biologists said global warming was pushing the wolverine toward extinction and urged listing," he told Reuters.

The FWS is standing by its decision, but stresses that it does not mean that they aren't dedicated to protecting North American wolverines.

"While we concluded that the wolverine does not merit Endangered Species Act protection at this time, this does not end our involvement in wolverine conservation," Service Director Dan Ashe concluded in the statement. "We will continue to work with our state partners as they manage for healthy and secure wolverine populations and monitor their status.

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