Wolverines, the largest land-dwelling species in the mustelid family, are famous for their daring and tenacity — they've been known to prey on animals as big as moose, and many stories tell of mountain lions, bears and wolves retreating from their kills at a wolverine's approach. Unfortunately, in the contiguous United States, these tough scavenger-predators are barely holding on. Trapping and habitat loss have been dramatically shrinking their populations for more than a century, and now they're faced with new human threats like snowmobiles tearing through their habitat and, worse, global warming threatening the deep snow they rely on for life activities from travelling to denning and raising kits.



Despite wolverines' dire situation, the federal government repeatedly refused to protect them. First the feds denied proof of their peril in the lower 48 states — then they declared that, while wolverines may be imperiled in the States, they don't need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act because populations in Canada are still stable. Like many other species, from cactus ferruginous pygmy owls to Mexican garter snakes, American wolverines have been denied the protection they need simply because their peers across the border are more widespread.


Back in 2008 the Center and allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for deciding not to protect the wolverine and letting political considerations — like the implications of protecting another global warming-threatened mammal — win out over scientific findings on the animal's danger. In responsee the Service agreed to re-examine the wolverine's situation, but in 2010 the agency merely put the mammal on the "candidate list" to await protections indefinitely.

In 2011 the Center reached a landmark settlement with the Service compelling it to move forward on listing 757 imperiled species, including the wolverine. In 2013, after agency biologists found global warming to be reducing the snowpack females need for denning, the Service proposed listing the wolverine as "threatened." But the very next year the agency withdrew the proposed listing.

The Center and allies promptly sued, leading a Montana judge to tell the Service it must take action on safeguarding the wolverine “at the earliest possible, defensible moment in time." The Trump administration dragged its feet and missed its own deadline for a decision.

So in 2020, with fewer than 300 wolverines left in the lower 48 states, we filed a lawsuit against the Service for its failure to move forward on protection. The Service didn't follow through on a legal agreement they signed with us to decide on protections by that summer's end — so the Center and allies launched another lawsuit.

And finally, in 2023, the Service announced it would protect the wolverine population in the lower 48 states as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Check out our press releases to learn more about the Center's actions for American wolverines.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/William F. Wood