Kootenay National Park

Quick facts

Eats carcasses and prey animals
Travels long distances across rugged terrain
Likes connected wilderness with few humans
Weighs up to 40 lbs
SARA status: Special Concern (2018)

Wolverines are the largest land-dwelling members of the weasel family. They have long, bushy tails and big feet that move easily across snow. Every wolverine has a unique, light patch of fur on its chest. These chest patches are used to identify individuals—almost like a fingerprint!

Wolverines are not picky eaters. Their Latin name, gulo, means glutton. They like to scavenge, feeding on the carcasses of large animals. Their strong jaw muscles can crush bones and frozen meat. Wolverines also hunt prey animals like marmots and mountain goats.

Where they live

Wolverines are found in forested wilderness, mountain environments, and arctic tundra. They use high-elevation habitats with steep and rugged terrain. Wolverines often travel far in search of food. Males have home ranges up to 1582 km2 — an area larger than Kootenay National Park!

Typical mountain terrain that wolverines travel across.
A remote wildlife camera takes a photo of a wolverine crossing a mountain pass.

Why they are at risk

Habitat fragmentation

Wolverines need vast stretches of wilderness to survive. These areas support important food sources such as: 1) carcasses left by other predators; and 2) large prey animals like mountain goats and caribou.

Both in and outside of the park, human activities and developments like towns, roads and railways can break up their habitat.

Human disturbance

Wolverines are very sensitive to human activity and avoid areas with people. Winter activities in the park, like backcountry skiing, can disturb denning females and their young.

Outside of the park, wolverines are threatened by additional activities like hunting, trapping, overharvest and motorized recreation.

Climate change

A warming climate will likely affect wolverines because they are a snow-adapted species. For example:

  • Females like to den in areas where snow accumulates.
  • Snow and cold temperatures help preserve food caches.
  • A snow-covered landscape is easier for wolverines to move across.
© Conrad Janzen

How Parks Canada is helping


Parks Canada sets up remote wildlife cameras to monitor wolverine activity in the park. Camera images help us understand how wolverines use habitat, and how many individuals there are.

A remote wildlife camera takes a photo of a wolverine running on the snow.
A remote wildlife camera takes a photo of a wolverine in the forest.

Protecting habitat

In Kootenay National Park, wolverines and their habitat are protected by law under the National Parks Act and Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Inside protected areas like the national parks, wolverine density can be 3 times higher than unprotected areas.


A remote camera takes a photo of a wolverine visiting a baited research site. The wolverine’s unique chest patch is on display.

Parks Canada collaborates with other scientists and agencies to learn more about wolverines. For example, staff participated in a 10-year study of wolverine populations in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Data was collected from remote cameras and bait stations within Kootenay, Yoho, and Banff national parks. The results showed that:

  • The number of wolverines in the study area declined by 39% over ten years.
  • The likelihood of wolverines being in an area decreases with more human recreation and development.
  • Snow is important to wolverines, and more were found in areas with persistent spring snow.

Learn more about this research

How you can help

It’s rare to see a wolverine! Their low population densities and elusive nature make them hard to study. You can contribute to research by reporting wolverine and track sightings to Parks Canada at llyk.wildlife@pc.gc.ca.
If possible, please do the following:
 – Record the time, date, and location (GPS coordinates or Google Earth pin).
 – Take multiple photos of the tracks (close up and track pattern). Include an item like a glove for scale.

Wolverine track patterns in the snow.
Wolverine track shape and size.

Never follow tracks towards an animal.

If you think you are near a wolverine den, leave the area immediately and notify park staff. Dens can be identified by several sets of tracks leading to and from a hole in the snow. Please do not approach the den. This puts the babies at risk because the female wolverine may abandon the den.

Learn more

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