In the conterminous United States, wolverines (Gulo gulo) occupy semi-isolated patches of subalpine habitats at naturally low densities. The long-term success of the wolverine metapopulation requires open space in valley bottoms that link the mountain ranges of the western US to facilitate dispersal. No previous analysis has used empirical data to determine the degree to which dispersing wolverines are sensitive, or not, to differences in habitat quality outside of areas suitable for a home range. This sensitivity is important because it influences model results and impacts conservation actions. Improving wolverine habitat connectivity models among mountain ranges will benefit future wolverine conservation aimed at maintaining gene flow among populations. To determine how to most accurately model wolverine habitat connectivity, we used a resource selection function to model habitat and then generated five connectivity maps using Circuitscape 4.0. Each connectivity map represented a degrees of sensitivity to movement within low-quality habitats. We used 3 validation metrics to compare these different connectivity layers and determine which layer best approximated observed wolverine dispersal using collar data. We found that a moderately strong negative exponential relationship between habitat quality and resistance best described observed wolverine dispersal (c = 8). This suggests that once outside of habits suitable for a home range, wolverines are only moderately sensitive to changes in predicted habitat quality. Our results highlight the need to disentangle dispersal data from home range data and to validate connectivity models generated from resource selections functions using dispersal data. Our findings also indicate that validation of connectivity metrics is an essential component of conservation planning to best support the persistence of species


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