Depending on who's estimating, there are somewhere between 200 and 600 North American wolverines left in the contiguous United States. So folks might think that getting them onto the nation's endangered species list would be a breeze. If so, they'd be wrong.
Source: Pacific Northwest Research Station
The shrinking North American wolverine population
It's only until now, after a hard fought lawsuit, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is finally agreeing that the species should be added to the list. But even so, a waiting list of other species looking for endangered designation and a general lack of funds for wildlife programs means it may be years before the animal is actually classified as endangered.
The switch in attitude toward the ornery creature by the USFWS came about after a lawsuit by environmental group Earthjustice persuaded the agency to finally agree that the North American wolverine is its own distinct population and not the same as wolverines found in Europe and Asia.
Wolverines will now be added to a list of species that have been slated for inclusion on the endangered species list, but are stuck in red tape while the agency reviews them.
"Wolverines found in the contiguous United States warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, but a rulemaking to propose the species for protection is precluded by the need to address other higher priority species..."
It's unclear how long it will take for the animal to actually make the list. Besides the hirearchy of other animals that are ahead of wolverines, the APreports that USFWS spokesperson Diane Katzenbach says that it will also take money to get the creature classified as endangered.
The animals are known to live in mountainous parts of Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and California, though it's been years since they have been seen in some of those states.
Getting them on the endangered species list is likely the only shot the creatures have of guaranteeing their existence in the U.S. as something more than a college mascot or an X-Men character.