Column: Wolverine tracking and the tale of Terrible Ted

Shuswap Outdoors by Hank Shelley

Environmental writer and Vancouver Sun columnist Larry Pynn’s book, Last Stands, takes a reader on a journey through the great rain forest to California’s red woods, to wolverines of the Columbia Mountains north of Revelstoke.

There, he travels with a biologist in charge of a research project to determine how wolverines are thriving, in a resource-based economy of logging, road building and shrinking environment.

It was estimated 25 of the animals live and roam in a 500-square kilometer range. Funding for the project came from the Columbia Basin wildlife compensation program.

Wolverines prefer wilderness habitats, away from humans, but have been known to cross highways or scavenge road-killed animals.

By 1998, 39 wolverines had been live trapped and collared to track their movements. To capture the animals, a coffin-size live trap is constructed of available material and bait was road-killed deer,elk, etc., with a beaver carcass for smell. When the wolverine tugs at the bait, a heavy log roof falls down and trips a magnetized transmitter beacon, alerting biologists to the capture. Immediately they travel to the area by helicopter or snowmobile, then the animal is tranquilized,weighed and tagged on both ears, and fitted with a radio collar.

Read more: PHOTOS: Salmon Arm trail cam takes rare shot of wolverine

Read more: VIDEO: The secret lives of B.C.’s wolverines

Read more: Young taxidermist honours animals with artistry

The collars will rot off in two years. It’s not unusual for wolverines to travel 20 to 40 kilometres a day in search of food.

Terrible Ted, so named by the biologist who trapped and collared him, had quite a tale to tell. Seems, a blood splotch in the snow alerted the collaring team as they flew over to have the pilot of the helicopter land nearby. A bull caribou lay in the snow in balsam spruce. It payed no attention to Ted as he shuffled toward it. Ted then jumped onto its neck and, with grinding force, began to gnaw. The bull rose and stumbled through thick foliage, but Ted hung on, finally bringing the caribou down. He then began to tear away at the bull, pulling it apart, burying chunks in the deep snow. This was a first for the biologists, knowing the strength and power of the wolverine.

Ted had given the team a frightful fuss when trapped once before. The caribou, when examined, had a broken shoulder blade and damaged vertebrae, possibly from a grizzly or cougar attack the year before. It could have taken hours or a day or so, but the wolverine clung on, chewing and gnawing until the bull went down.

On other outdoor news: Many hunter’s report seeing few deer or moose in their quest to harvest game for the freezer. A number of factors remain: high predator numbers; wolf packs in several valleys; extended clear cut logging, even into prime winter habitats for both species; the large number of hunters travelling the bush in search of game. On a bright note, late fall fishing has been excellent on local Skimikin, Hidden and Gardom lakes, and goose hunter’s are finding lots of birds to harvest.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

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