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Judge orders wildlife officials to decide if wolverines need federal protections

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A federal judge has given U.S. wildlife officials 18 months to decide if wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The move follows years of dispute over how much risk climate change and other threats pose to the rare and elusive predators.

Last week’s order from a U.S. District Judge comes after environmentalists challenged a 2020 decision under the Trump administration to withhold protections for the animals in the lower 48 states, where no more than 300 of the animals are thought to remain.

Environmentalists argued that wolverines face localized extinction as a result of climate change, habitat fragmentation and low genetic diversity.

Arizona is among many states in the contiguous U.S. where wolverines have historically roamed.

Utah officials reported a rare sighting in 2021 near Lake Powell.