Wiegele partners with wolverine study

In 2017, wildlife biologist Mirjam Barrueto started working within the MWHS terrain to study wolverines

The wolverine, Gulo gulo is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae (weasels).

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing

A chance to see wildlife while skiing at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, is a very special experience.

Often caribou, wolves, moose and goats that roam in the Wiegele terrain, can easily be spotted and observed from a distance. However, another special animal known as the wolverine is much more elusive … and sometimes never seen by anyone.

In 2017, wildlife biologist Mirjam Barrueto started working within the MWHS terrain to study wolverines in the Canadian Crown of the Continent (southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta and B.C.) ecosystems. This research will be used to determine what affects the wolverine’s life-cycles – as research has shown that their population is decreasing worldwide.

“We don’t really know yet why there are so few wolverines,” Barreto said. “After six years of wolverine research, I am in love with this incredible creature. Spending more time learning about them and hopefully contributing to their persistence in southern Canada would be extremely rewarding.”

Barrueto said she was encouraged to come to Blue River to deploy bait stations. And partnering with MWHS will allow her to use the tenure to deploy hundreds of bait stations – over the course of three winter seasons.

“Mike Wiegele is an important partner,” she said. “First, because it’s such an old company – meaning that wolverines there would be likely quite habituated to helicopter and skier traffic. Second, because it’s a very large tenure – comprising one-seventh of the whole study area.”

This winter the first two of 10 test stations were positioned in the area surrounding Blue River. These stations will be taking photos of a unique hair pattern on the animal’s chest and collecting a hair samples while leaving the animals unharmed.

Barrueto’s wolverine research is a positive extension to MWHS’s mandate to respect wildlife habitat. While taking groups into the backcountry areas, MWHS guides and pilots are constantly on watch for wildlife and ski runs are often closed to ensure helicopters and skiers don’t disturb sensitive wildlife areas.

Working with Barrueto will provide MWHS operations another chance to keep an eye on the creatures that share the tenure and to learn more about reducing any impact on the environment within the 1.2 million acre MWHS terrain.

– Interview by 10-year MWHS heli-skiing addict and guest MWHS blogger Jean Strong.