No, this isn’t Red Dawn 2021 (although you can hold an AK-47 over your head if you want to).
Today, we have some interesting news courtesy of the Deserets at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and it’s interesting on two different fronts. First, there has been a spotting of what biologists are confident is in fact a wolverine, backed up with video. The second most interesting thing is that apparently Utahns have no problem admitting that there is a large, naturally occurring wild predator in their state. This is in direct contrast to the general attitude of other states’ Fish & Game departments, which seems to generally be “nuh-uh.”
As we noted last year, it’s standard operating procedure for state wildlife departments to deny the existence of large predators like mountain lions and wolves. That’s because acknowledging the presence of such apex predators means bureaucratic headaches for them. Usually, the claim is that the animal that has been photographed (or found dead on the road) is an escaped pet. Perhaps it’s different this time because the animal in question is a wolverine, which is quite possibly the only animal alive less pettable than a honey badger. (Quite possibly because they’re closely related.)
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources received a report on the evening of May 4 of a wolverine that had been spotted earlier that day on the northwest end of Antelope Island near the Bridger Bay Campground. Photos and video were posted to Facebook, and DWR biologists actually confirmed that the footage looks like a wolverine.
DWR biologists went to Antelope Island on Wednesday morning to try to either locate the animal or find any possible tracks. However, the ground in that area of Antelope Island is very hard, and no tracks were located.
Wolverines — typically found in high mountain areas — are rare in Utah. Because they are so elusive, it is unclear exactly how many are currently in Utah and whether there is an established population here. A single wolverine can have a home range as large as 350 square miles, and they can travel long distances.
“Wolverines are very rare to see because they are largely nocturnal, and they travel quickly, typically not staying in one area long enough to be found or seen,” DWR Wildlife Conservation Biologist Adam Brewerton said. “We believe this wolverine sighted on Antelope Island is just passing through since Antelope Island does not have suitable habitat. It is always exciting to hear of wolverine sightings in the state and especially when we have video evidence.”
Each year, the DWR receives several reported sightings of wolverines, most commonly from the High Uintas. Because of their elusive nature, biologists are unable to confirm most of these reports. The DWR also places remote cameras in potential habitat areas to try to monitor wolverines in the state.
Wolverines typically scavenge carcasses and are known to hunt many different kinds of animals, ranging from squirrels to birds to larger animals in deep snow.
Wolverines are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. However, in Utah, they are protected by state law.
Confirmed wolverine sightings in Utah
- June 29, 2016: A female wolverine carcass was located by the Utah Department of Transportation after it was hit and killed by a vehicle about one mile west of Laketown, near Bear Lake in Rich County.
- December 2014: Wolverine tracks were found near Dutch John.
- February 2014: A wolverine was captured in a photo at a camera bait station in the Uinta Mountains.
- 1979: A wolverine was hit and killed by a vehicle on U.S. Highway 40, east of Vernal.
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