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Wolverine-sized leap south

Posted by kmcgurn at Apr 12, 2012 04:15 PM |

It's no late April Fool's joke: on April 1st, our remote camera program made a great discovery in the Cascades! [SLIDESHOW]

Wolverine-sized leap south

Our volunteer-placed remote cameras snapped this wolverine photo. If it is a previously unknown animal, this represents one of the first photos of wolverines south of Route 2 in 20 years! Scroll down to see the slideshow and adopt a camera!

Updated 4/27: New photos added to slideshow, below!

The Wolverine (Gulo gulo) occupies its own special place in animal mythology, dating back centuries, and for good reason. Wolverines are regarded as powerful predators who have been documented killing prey many times their size, like deer, elk, and moose. These hardy, solitary creatures from the mustelid family have also been known to attempt to steal kills from black bears and even tempting fate by taking on the largest land dwelling mammal, the polar bear. Suffice it to say, the wolverine is badass.

In the Northwest, the wolverine is better known as a ghost, with a small remnant population numbering in the single digits. Credible sightings and a smattering of photos in the late 1990s led agency biologists to begin a formal study. They would eventually radio collar several wolverines in the North Cascades. Ongoing research has begun to determine their basic ranges, but more often than not these critters leave their tracks in the snow and nothing else. Late last month we blogged on the study's latest update and a sighting in Colville National Forest.

Our Cascade Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program has supported the study by monitoring wolverine populations in the North Cascades. Working with agency biologists, we’ve maintained several wolverine monitoring sites over the years, across the state in the hopes of pinpointing the next places to investigate this fledgling population’s status.

Winter after winter, we send dedicated volunteers to the remote snow-bound slopes of the North Cascades where Gulo gulo could be lurking. Often we come back empty handed… but persistence pays, and this was our year!

Only two weeks ago, one of our cameras captures several images of a lone wolverine in the Chiwaukum Mountains, south of Highway 2 between Leavenworth and Stevens Pass.  See the whole set of photos on Conservation Northwest's Flickr or scroll down for a wolverine slideshow!


Keith Aubry, a federal biologist and lead researcher on the north cascades wolverine study, had this to say:

This is an important new record of wolverine occurrence in the northern Cascades of Washington. These photographs were taken about 25 km south of the area used by our southernmost radio-collared wolverine. With the exception of a wolverine that was photographed on Mt. Adams in the southern Cascades, this is the only verifiable record of wolverine occurrence south of the Stevens Pass Highway we've had in 20 years.

Historical evidence indicates that wolverines were extirpated from Washington by the mid-1900s, and this record provides additional evidence that wolverines are in the process of reclaiming their former range in the state.

Federal and state biologists have sent out a team to recover possible hair samples from the site to determine if this is a new wolverine. Images indicate the wolverine was not wearing a radio collar, keeping open the possibility this new wolverine has hitherto flown under the radar. It’s certainly not been hard to do in the large tracts of wilderness that make up much of the North Cascades and your average wolverine’s wide range.

As the common saga goes, wolverine in the lower 48 were wiped out in the epic expansion of mankind, trapping and hunting his way across the American west. Despite our best intentions, native carnivores in our country have, above all, paid the price.

However, with there’s reason to be optimistic for our state’s predators: With each piece of evidence and new image, we realize that wolverines--like their carnivorous brethren wolves, fisher, and lynx--are reclaiming wild territory, news that suggests the Cascades are getting wilder. That’s certainly something our tenacious friend Gulo gulo could be proud of.

Help us find the next amazing wildlife discovery and protect the right places: Adopt a remote camera team!

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wolverine footage

Posted by JoAnna Coffey at May 12, 2012 09:45 PM
He/she really made a considerable effot to get to that chicken- but alas!
Kudos to the volunteers who captured these images.

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