Snow-track surveys to detect rare carnivores require unequivocal species identification because of management and political ramifications associated with the presence of such species. Collecting noninvasive genetic samples from putative wolverine (Gulo gulo) snow tracks is an effective method for providing definitive species identification for use in presence–absence surveys. We completed 54 backtracks of approximately 1.4 km each and collected 169 hairs and 58 scats. Amplification rates of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) used for species identification were 62% and 24% for scats and hairs, respectively. The average distance traveled to collect a sample containing high-quality mtDNA for species identification was 1,330 m. Genetic analysis confirmed 35 snow tracks (64%) as wolverine. The remaining 19 snow tracks consisted of 8 that did not provide samples and 11 that contained nonamplifiable samples. Collection of both hairs and scats provided 28% more track verifications than would have occurred using only one type of sample. Collecting noninvasive samples from snow tracks also may provide individual wolverine identification that may provide a basis for obtaining minimum population estimates, relatedness tests, or mark–recapture population estimates given sufficient sample sizes. To that end, we analyzed nuclear DNA (nDNA) from the same samples to produce individual genotypes. Amplification rates of nDNA from scats and hairs ranged from 25% to 52% and 13% to 16%, respectively, and produced individual genotypes for 23 of the 54 snow tracks (43%).
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Vol. 34 • No. 5