Prepared by Ontario Wolverine Recovery Team

Wolverine (Gulo gulo) are the largest terrestrial members of the weasel family (Order Carnivora, Family Mustelidae). They are circumpolar in distribution, occupying the boreal and tundra zones of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia and North America. Wolverine have disappeared from much of their historical range in Ontario and other parts of Canada and the United States. It has been estimated that the range of Wolverine in Ontario has decreased over 50 percent since the mid-1800s. In Ontario, Wolverine are now found primarily in the central and western portions of Ontario’s far north. The decline in Wolverine range and numbers of individuals has been attributed to a number of inter-related factors that include human settlement and land-clearing, forest harvesting, reductions in prey species, Wolverine harvest, landscape fragmentation and climate change.

The Wolverine is listed as threatened on the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Nationally, Ontario Wolverine are part of the Western Population, which was assessed as special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), but has no status under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The national Eastern Population (Quebec and Labrador) is designated as endangered by both COSEWIC and under SARA.

The recovery goal is to ensure self-sustaining Wolverine populations within Ontario’s recovery range footnote 1 . The following recovery objectives have been identified as necessary to attain the recovery goal.

  1. Protect and manage Wolverine populations and their associated habitat.
  2. Reduce or eliminate known threats to Wolverine populations and their habitat within Ontario’s recovery range.
  3. Increase understanding of Wolverine ecology, threats to their habitat and Wolverine survival through inventory, monitoring and research.
  4. Integrate Wolverine conservation efforts across provincial, territorial and federal jurisdictions, between ministries and with First Nations and planning processes.
  5. Generate support and partnerships for Wolverine conservation by promoting education, awareness and stewardship of Wolverine and boreal forest ecosystems.

A number of recovery approaches have been identified. Three recovery zones are proposed based on differences in Wolverine distribution, ecological conditions, and threats that guide recovery actions. Achievement of the recovery goal should be evaluated by tracking the values of a number of indicators, with provincial range occupancy acting as the overall measure of Wolverine recovery. The recovery team strongly urges the continued involvement of its members and other Wolverine experts in the implementation of recovery approaches recommended here, with an emphasis on priority actions outlined below.

The recovery team considers the following actions to be of the highest priority for Wolverine recovery in Ontario.

  • Development of provincial policy and guidance to support implementation of section 23.13 (trapping - incidental catch) of Ontario Regulation 242/08 under the ESA to provide security to trappers, and foster cooperation and involvement in Wolverine data collection and population assessment.
  • Research into the ecology of Wolverine in lowland boreal forests, with emphasis on den site selection, productivity and survival rates in both undisturbed and modified habitats.
  • Building of synergies between Woodland Caribou and Wolverine recovery in the province, by integrating Wolverine recovery considerations with ongoing Woodland Caribou conservation efforts in the province, where appropriate.
  • Development of a general habitat description to support implementation of general habitat protection under the ESA or alternatively development of species- specific habitat regulation for Wolverine.
  • Establishment and implementation of a survey and monitoring strategy for Wolverine in the context of a formalized adaptive management process.

As a wide-ranging species where individuals require relatively large home ranges, a fundamental goal of Wolverine recovery is to provide for connectivity across the proposed Wolverine recovery range in Ontario and to neighbouring jurisdictions. Also critical to the recovery of Wolverine is the application of management and protection measures at a variety of spatial scales, specifically at the inter-jurisdictional, population, home range, and denning area levels to address several of the objectives in this recovery strategy. Recognizing that functional habitat for Wolverine is provided at the larger landscape scale and that an ecosystem approach will be required to achieve habitat conservation for this broad-ranging species, it is recommended that the entire area captured by the three recovery zones should be prescribed as Wolverine habitat under the ESA. The recovery zones include areas currently occupied by Wolverine, as well as areas where the species is known to be re-occupying at present, and that are key to the objective of promoting connectivity between the nationally defined Western and Eastern Wolverine populations. Areas considered unsuitable such as built-up areas, including communities and a reasonable "disturbance" buffer should be excluded from regulation. However, areas that may be presently unsuitable but have the potential if managed properly (restorative or rehabilitative action), should be included in the habitat regulation.