Critter Tales

Killed by vehicle, rare wolverine located in Utah is exciting find for biologists

Killed by vehicle, rare wolverine located in Utah is exciting find for biologists

By Buckmasters Online

Even though it was hit and killed by a vehicle, the fact that a wolverine was found in northern Utah is exciting to staff with the Division of Wildlife Resources. The elusive animal was hit by a vehicle near Bear Lake in Rich County recently.

"This wolverine was not transplanted to Utah," said DWR Director Greg Sheehan. "It made its way here on its own. It's amazing to see the diversity of wildlife we have in Utah expand even more, particularly, such a charismatic and mythical species as the wolverine."

The most recent confirmed sighting of a wolverine in Utah happened in February 2014, when biologists using a trail camera captured an image of a wolverine at a bait station in the Uinta Mountains.

Wolverines — found historically in high mountain areas — are rare in Utah today. The last time a wolverine carcass was found in Utah was in 1979, when a wolverine was hit and killed by a vehicle on U.S. Highway 40 east of Vernal.

Utah’s DWR biologists and officers learned about the wolverine June 29. That's when an employee with the Utah Department of Transportation called a DWR conservation officer to report finding a dead wolverine that had been hit by a vehicle.

Sheehan says the wolverine was found "was a young female, and there's no evidence that the wolverine had been reproducing."

A necropsy is being performed on the animal, to learn more about it and confirm the cause of death.

Leslie McFarlane, DWR mammals coordinator, says there have been multiple unconfirmed sightings of wolverines in Utah in recent years.

"We don't know how many wolverines live in Utah," McFarlane says, "or if they're living here at all. They're elusive, have a wide distribution range and can travel long distances. A wolverine's territory can be as large as 350 square miles. They tend to move large distances within that territory."

McFarlane says about 250 to 300 wolverines live in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. They're also found in the North Cascades in Washington.

It's likely the wolverine killed June 29 was wandering through the state, McFarlane said. "To prove wolverines are established in Utah," she says, "we would have to have multiple sightings over a short period of time and in one particular area."

Wolverines are not currently listed as threatened or endangered however, in Utah they are fully protected by state law.

— From the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

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