The North American wolverine will finally be listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Biden Administration decided Wednesday, after years of protections being delayed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the animal is threatened by climate change and habitat destruction, and will receive protections in the 48 mainland states. Wolverines will be formally added to the endangered list 30 days after the publication of the rule Thursday.
Former President Donald Trump's administration previously rejected protections for the species. A judge ordered the Biden Administration to reconsider in 2022 based on research that noted declining populations based on snow melt and road construction.
Wolverines are known for their ability to survive in harsh conditions, earning the nickname the "mountain devil." They require large swaths of wild land, as well as moderate-to-heavy snowfall, according to the National Wildlife Federation. They rely on snow in mountainous areas to dig dens, where they birth and raise their young, and territory for adult males can span as much as 610 square miles.
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The species is prominent in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Rocky mountains. Wolverines often travel between the northern U.S. states and southern Canada to mate, but road construction has prevented their movement in recent years, leading to a decline in the population in both countries.
There are an estimated maximum of 300 wolverines in the mainland U.S. Protections under the Endangered Species Act will prevent federal agencies and other organizations from damaging habitat deemed essential to the species, particularly through development such as construction or road expansion.
This will also provide additional protections against trapping, which has been detrimental to the population of the species in recent decades. At least 10 wolverines have been accidentally captured in the state of Montana since trapping was restricted in 2012, according to AP, including three that were killed. 11 wolverines have been captured in Idaho since 1995, three of which were also killed.
Researchers previously predicted that wolverines would not be severely impacted by climate change, believing that enough snow would remain at high elevations despite rising temperatures. Record ice melt in recent years has since proven otherwise, which the Endangered Species Act cannot reverse. Experts maintain that the only lucrative way to combat climate change is to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.