By Marshall Swearingen MSU NEWS SERVICE
BOZEMAN – Following a multi-year study conducted by a Montana State University scientist, a team of researchers has shown for the first time that a major highway disproportionately limits movement of female wolverines, suggesting that roads throughout the rare species’ North American range could be impacting wolverine populations.
Tony Clevenger, wildlife research scientist at MSU’s Western Transportation Institute, and collaborators examined the effects of the highway on male and female wolverines in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks from 2010 to 2014. The study was part of Parks Canada’s widening of the Trans-Canada Highway from two to four lanes in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Clevenger’s team used a noninvasive method of gathering hair samples and through DNA extraction were able to infer how the wolverines were moving around, including whether they crossed the highway. The genetic analysis showed that plenty of males were crossing, according to Mike Sawaya, who was lead author on the published paper. “But for females it was almost complete isolation.”