Wolverines are highly vagile carnivores, with long-distance dispersal documented for males and females. Consequently, the species was thought to represent 1 large, panmictic unit in North America. In this study, we examined the connectivity of populations on the edge of their historical distribution to the larger, continuous, northern distribution of wolverines. Twenty-two regions were sampled, and 671 individuals were genotyped at 12 microsatellite loci. Our results confirmed that high levels of gene flow do occur among all the northern wolverine populations sampled. We also observed progressively increasing genetic structure at the periphery of their southern and eastern distributions, suggesting that these populations may have been partially fragmented from what was once a panmictic unit. Peripheral populations may be more susceptible to extirpation and, therefore, may be the most appropriate targets for concerted conservation efforts to prevent the elimination of wolverines from yet more of their historical range.
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