U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials have been pushing for protection of the small, ferocious animal for years, but have been waylaid as a low priority. If the wolverine is listed as an endangered species, that will spell the end of trapping outside Alaska.

According to NBC News, there are only about 300 of the animals left in the continental United States, mainly in the northwest.

“This is a species there is still time to do something about,” said FWS ecological director Mike Thabault.

Wildlife specialists hope that with the protection in place wolverines will eventually make a comeback. The proposal will allow some states to release small contained populations to restore native groups in Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana.

Montana’s wolverine trapping season was shut down by a court order and residents have been looking forward to next season, but they might never get the chance. Montana is the only state aside from Alaska to allow wolverine trapping, but that was challenged earlier this year by a group of eight organizations. They brought the case before a district judge who then signed an order barring the season from taking place.

Experts believe it’s likely that the listing will occur before the next wolverine season, essentially ending wolverine trapping in the lower 48 states. The state has an annual quota of five animals.

Wolverines are the largest species in the weasel family and were once widespread along the West Coast. They are solitary animals that make their homes out of snow, but don’t mistake that for timidity. Wolverines have a reputation for being tough enough to stand up to bears, who know by now they can find an easier snack.

Image from Spencer Wright (spencer77) on the flickr Creative Commons

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