Young, wild and free: Wolverine spotted in California for only second time in last 100 years

by Sophia Chen
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wolverine sighting

According to state wildlife officials, an extraordinary event unfolded in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada last month when a wolverine was sighted on three separate occasions. This remarkable sighting marks only the second time in the past century that this elusive creature has been observed in the state.

Although wolverines are indigenous to California, their presence has been virtually non-existent since the 1920s. It is widely believed that rampant hunting and fur trapping, prevalent in the aftermath of the gold rush era, were the primary causes behind their disappearance. However, historical records from that time fail to provide conclusive evidence regarding the precise factors contributing to the decline of their population.

Between 2008 and 2018, a lone wolverine was spotted in California, predominantly in the Tahoe National Forest, though the recently observed wolverine is likely a different individual due to their typical lifespan of 12 to 13 years.

The latest sighting reveals a young male wolverine, likely in search of a mate. It has been seen twice in the Inyo National Forest and once in Yosemite National Park.

Daniel Gammons, a senior environmental scientist in California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, expressed his exhilaration, remarking, “It’s truly astounding and unexpected.”

Male wolverines traverse vast territories, often spanning several hundred square kilometers. Gammons suggests that this winter’s heavy snowfall in the Western region may have created “habitat bridges,” enabling the wolverine to journey from the Rocky and Cascade mountain ranges or even as far as Canada or Alaska.

Wildlife officials are actively working to obtain a sample of the wolverine’s hair or scat for genetic testing. As the largest land-dwelling member of the weasel family, the wolverine is classified as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wolverine sighting

What is the significance of the wolverine sighting in California’s Sierra Nevada?

The wolverine sighting in California’s Sierra Nevada is highly significant because it marks only the second time in the last 100 years that a wolverine has been observed in the state. This rare occurrence highlights the elusive nature of the species and emphasizes the need for conservation efforts to protect this endangered animal.

Why have wolverines been extinct in California since the 1920s?

The extinction of wolverines in California since the 1920s can be attributed to hunting and fur trapping activities that were prevalent during the gold rush era and the subsequent decades. Although historical records from that time do not provide conclusive evidence, it is widely believed that these practices significantly contributed to the decline in the wolverine population.

How often are wolverines usually spotted in California?

Wolverine sightings in California are extremely rare. Prior to the recent sighting in the Sierra Nevada, there was only one confirmed sighting of a wolverine in the state between 2008 and 2018. These elusive creatures have a lifespan of around 12 to 13 years, further limiting the opportunities for observation.

What is the current status of wolverines in California?

Wolverines in California are listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act. The recent sighting highlights the importance of protecting and conserving their habitat to ensure their survival in the state. Efforts are underway to study the genetics of the observed wolverine through hair or scat samples to gain a better understanding of the population dynamics and implement suitable conservation measures.

More about wolverine sighting

  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife: The official website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which provides information on wildlife conservation and management in the state.
  • Sierra Nevada: Learn more about the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where the wolverine sighting took place in California.
  • Endangered Species Act: Information about the Endangered Species Act, which protects threatened and endangered species in the United States, including wolverines.
  • National Park Service – Yosemite National Park: Official website of Yosemite National Park, where one of the wolverine sightings occurred.
  • Tahoe National Forest: Discover more about Tahoe National Forest, where a previous wolverine sighting in California was recorded.

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