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Research article2017Peer reviewed

Mismatch between goals and the scale of actions constrains adaptive carnivore management: the case of the wolverine in Sweden

Aronsson, M.; Persson, J.


Efficient conservation of wide-ranging carnivores requires that adaptive management consider the varying ecological and societal conditions within the entire range of a population. In northern Europe, large carnivore management has to balance carnivore conservation and maintaining the indigenous reindeer-herding culture. Wolverine Gulo gulo monitoring and management in Sweden is currently focused on alpine reindeer husbandry areas where wolverine abundance and associated depredation conflicts have been highest. However, this focus ignores a potential southwards population expansion because current monitoring relies on snow-based tracking methods that are not applicable outside northern alpine areas. Thus, in this study we: (1) used available monitoring data from 1996 to 2014 in Sweden to assess wolverine distribution trends in relation to national management goals, and (2) evaluate the current monitoring protocol against the use of camera stations as an alternative, snow-independent, method for detecting wolverine presence at the southern periphery of its distribution. We show that the wolverine population in Sweden has expanded considerably into the boreal forest landscape, and colonized areas without reindeer husbandry and persistent spring snow cover. The latter indicates a less strict relationship between wolverine distribution and snow cover than previously hypothesized. Current management continues to use a monitoring protocol that is only adapted to high-conflict alpine areas, and is not adapting to changing conditions in the population range, which creates a problematic scale mismatch. Consequently, national management decisions are currently based on incomplete population information, as roughly a third of wolverine's range is not included in official population estimates, which could have detrimental consequences for conflict mitigation and conservation efforts. This illustrates that an important key to successful carnivore conservation is flexible management that considers the entire range of conditions at the appropriate regional and temporal scales under which carnivores, environment and people interact.


adaptive management; census; colonization; indigenous communities; carnivores; wolverine; human-wildlife conflict; monitoring protocols

Published in

Animal Conservation
2017, Volume: 20, number: 3, pages: 261-269

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      Fish and Wildlife Management

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