Researchers capture first live wolverine in Utah history

Climate crisis and human activity has lowered wolverine population

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 17 March 2022 20:37 GMT
220317 - Utah Wolverine

Utah wildlife officials have captured the first live wolverine in the state’s history.

“It’s amazing to get a chance to see a wolverine in the wild, let alone catch one,” Utah Department of Wildlife Resources northern region wildlife manager Jim Christensen told the Salt Lake Tribune.  “Having a collar on this wolverine will teach us things about wolverines in Utah that would be impossible to learn any other way.”

On 10 March, a rancher discovered the creature killing sheep on land outside of Randolph, a town in eastern Utah, leaving 18 animals injured or dead. Despite the carnage, it was an astonishing sight: there have only been eight confirmed wolverine sightings in Utah since 1979, and there are thought to be only 300 total wolverines left in the lower 48 of the United States.

Wildlife Services, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture that hunts animals threatening livestock, searched for the creature by plane, then alerted the Utah DWR when it spotted the 28-pound wolverine, rather than killing it outright.

From there, Utah wildlife managers baited live traps with sheep carcasses in the hopes of temporarily catching the wolverine, a member of the weasel family known for its massive claws.

Once they captured the animal, officials sedated it, withdrew its blood for study, and released the healthy specimen into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National forest on 11 March with a newly installed GPS collar.

“With that collar on it, we will know exactly where it’s moving and when, where during different times of the year it’s moving and how far does it go when it moves,” a DWR spokesperson told KSLA.

The beast, which often hunts prey well above its size, was found at the southern edge of the wolverine range, and scientists hope to track its movements to learn more about wolverines and how to protect them.

Climate change, human activity, and habitat loss, have eliminated large portions of wolverine habitat in the US, leading to dwindling numbers of the wolverine population.

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