There are believed to be only 300-400 wolverines left in the contiguous United States, and one of them has been popping up in Yosemite and the Sierras, only the second wolverine seen in California in the last 100 years.
The last time a wolverine was seen in California was in 2018, when a single wolverine was spotted several times over a ten-year span in the Tahoe National Forest. And prior to that, a wolverine had not been seen in California since 1922. Wolverines are a threatened species, and the wolverine population in California was wiped out by the early 1900s. Only an estimated 300-400 wolverines remain in the contiguous United States, mostly in the Rocky Mountains.
Keep your eyes peeled in the Eastern Sierra: There's a new wolverine roaming the hills! https://t.co/gyWaVO2Hmv— Katie Dowd (@KatieDowd) June 1, 2023
But one of those wolverines has made its way to California. The Chronicle reports that a wolverine has been spotted in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain region of the state, only the second wolverine seen in California in the last 100 years.
KTLA has video of the wolverine, who was seen three times in the month of May, twice in Inyo National Forest, and once in Yosemite National Park. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has analyzed this and other videos, and by the animal's size and movements, they've confirmed it is a wolverine.
THE WOLVERINE HAS BEEN SIGHTED IN YOSEMITE!!!!!!— Beth Pratt (@bethpratt) June 1, 2023
" @CaliforniaDFW has confirmed that multiple sightings of what is believed to be the same wolverine occurred in May in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains... A third sighting occurred in Yosemite..." https://t.co/BpAkBQaCVy pic.twitter.com/GiR2rhEy3q
“Wolverines can travel great distances, making it likely that the recent sightings are all of the same animal,” CDFW senior environmental scientist Daniel Gammons said in a department announcement. “Because only two wolverines have been confirmed in California during the last 100 years, these latest detections are exciting.”
SFGate has some close-up video of the previous wolverine from 2016, though wildlife specialists are confident that it is not the same wolverine as the one who’s here now. They generally only live 12 to 13 years, and that wolverine had originally been spotted in 2008, so it’s highly unlikely that animal would still be alive.
And in a sad footnote to the species’ endangered status, then-CDFW senior environmental scientist told SFGate at the time, “He’s a lone wolverine looking for a female he’s likely never to find.”
But if you’re going to be in the eastern forest and mountain regions of the state, and you’re interested in keeping an eye out for that rare wolverine, the CDFW highly encourages you to report the sighting on their Wildlife Incident Reporting page.
Image: Hans Veth via Unsplash