Researchers are pushing to study and protect some of Montana's most elusive predators. Folks in the Swan Range are working hard to make sure that wolverines and other carnivores are tracked in monitored deep in the Southwest Crown of the Continent.
About 120 bait stations have been set up all over 1.5 million acres of landscape. Researchers use pieces of road kill deer and elk bolted to a tree and gun brushes, essentially big, sharp screws to collect the hair of small carnivores like lynx and wolverine.
"It's basically a way to non invasively collect information about the animals that are in the area," said Carly Lewis of Lolo National Forest. "We're not trapping, handling, or putting collars on them. We're just letting them come by, leave us a genetic sample, and take off at their own will."
Workers collect samples at the end of the season that are sent off to a special genetics lab. The samples show what animals have visited those stations and to track their movements throughout the Swan.
"Where are these species? Where are they occurring in this landscape. And then try to find out some more information," said Lewis. "Are there any hotspots we can recognize? This is an area we may want to target more research."
Researches say future land management decisions are being based off those results, ensuring that wildlife who roam in the Southwest Crown of the Continent will continue to live in a properly restored forest for hundreds of years to come.
"Why do we monitor? To make sure that all those other things that we're doing are keeping this land base right, whole, and healthy," said Northwest Connection's Melanie Parker. "And we're actually doing good or better. Not worse."