Cascades Carnivore Project

Today I accepted an offer to join a research team in southern Washington state studying wolverines and cascade red foxes! This project is the PhD research of Jocelyn Akins, a student at UC Davis, and focuses on carnivores in the Cascade Mountain Range. Specifically, this project is investigating the presence of the threatened wolverine (Gulo gulo) and the cascade red fox (Vulpes vulpes cascadensis) through winter surveys and genetic material. In short, I'll be snowmobiling all winter (over old volcanoes!) and snowshoeing or skiing into remote locations to monitor camera traps and collect hair and fecal samples from animals. The overall goals of Jocelyn's initiatives are to maintain biodiversity within this range by monitoring species of concern and determining important areas of habitat use.

I'm really looking forward to this project, as I became intrigued with the wolverine through Doug Chadwick's book "The Wolverine Way" (I recently met Doug at the Montana SCB Research Symposium). The wolverine has had many problems in the lower 48 due to habitat suitability, connectivity, and low population numbers. With such low numbers, the wolverine clearly needs to be listed as an endangered species, and yet the species has been denied the listing twice in the last five years. Currently the species is listed as warranted but not precluded under the Endangered Species Act, meaning that while there is need for them to be listed as endangered, there are more important species ahead of wolverines on this list.  I know far less about the cascade red fox, so I am really excited to get started on this project in January.  Red foxes are amazing mesocarnivores, and between low population numbers and humans feeding them and taking them as pets, learning more about their distribution and habitat selection will be an important step in their conservation in Washington.

I'm excited to get back into the snow (though it won't be as cold as it was in Montana!) and hone my snowmobiling skills.  It's going to be a challenge!  Washington state is beautiful, so I'll have plenty to soak in on days where I'm huffing and puffing or shoveling snow out of my pants.  It's a real treat to have the chance to study the wolverine and learn about the cascade red fox, two rare species, so I hope to have lots of photos this winter.  I can't wait to learn and share with you.  More to come!

For more information on the project, go to:

To learn about author Doug Chadwick and his awesome book "The Wolverine Way," visit:

Loving the recent cold (about -5F here) at Avalanche Lake in GNP! I can't wait to get to Washington!