Forest Carnivores

Since the 1990's we have been monitoring the existence and distribution of forest carnivores in the Swan Valley. In the early years, we conducted track surveys in snowy winter conditions for rare carnivores such as Canada lynx, fisher, marten and wolverine.

As the interest in these rare carnivores escalated, a collaborative effort focused on obtaining more concrete data on the distribution, abundance and genetics of these carnivores was formed.

The winter of 2014 marked our third field season on the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative Carnivore Monitoring Project. Data from this effort will inform forest management and restoration across the Seeley-Swan-Blackfoot region of Montana.

In 2014 we deployed 107 bait stations throughout the Southwest Crown region. A total of 615 genetics samples of carnivores from bait stations were collected. Track surveys were conducted in 62 5 kilometer grid cells with a total of 1,240 miles surveyed.


Objectives of this project on forest carnivores are to:

  • Monitor landscape changes to carnivore populations during implementation of the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, and beyond;
  • Develop a better understanding of the distribution and relative abundance of rare carnivores across the project area;
  • Collect empirical information upon which to base management decisions and inform conservation strategies;
  • Collect genetic material from the three focal species which will establish important baseline information (individual ID & sex, sub-population genetics) and add to the existing body of knowledge of these species in the Northern Rockies;
  • Better understand travel routes and coarse habitat selection for these species;
  • Complement ongoing research and monitoring efforts in the region;
  • Identify "hot spots" where more intensive research could be conducted (e.g. GPS collar deployment to study specific habitat use);
  • Make a concerted effort to survey roadless and wilderness efforts that have received very little survey effort to date; and
  • Raise community awareness/increase support among partners and the general public for forest carnivore conservation.

If you are interested in learning more about forest carnivores or gaining tracking skills, register for our Animal Tracks & Sign course.

IMAGE CREDITS: wolverine - AYImages;
Canada lynx - Chris Lorenz