By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Photographs Republished With Permission From Yellowstone Insight
A group of people on a tour in Yellowstone National Park over the weekend got the opportunity of a lifetime when they came across a rare sight: a wolverine in the wild.
In what is believed to be only the eighth such sighting in the last 15 years, the visitors riding through the park on a guided tour Saturday saw a wolverine walking through the area. A 2-minute video posted to YouTube by visitor Carl Kemp shows the wolverine moving through the area. The gasps of other visitors on the tour can be heard in the background.
“After an already amazing day in the park, filled with wolves, bears, mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, golden eagles and more, we turned around to make our way back, when I saw what I thought was a black bear running down the road,” Kemp wrote in the video description. “As soon as it turned, we realized we were in the middle of a once in a lifetime experience.”
The group’s tour guide stopped the vehicle, and allowed the group to take photos and video of the wolverine from a distance.
“The wolverine…appeared to be more curious than afraid,” Kemp said. “It looked at us several times before bounding up the hill. After giving us one more inquisitive look from the top of the hill…it disappeared into the Yellowstone’s deep evergreen forest, and left us all with a memory we will never forget.”
Very Rare Sight
Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Zack Walker told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the wolverine sighting was a very rare sight.
“We’re getting sightings, but it’s usually on a trail camera or something like that, but very few of them are seen in-person,” Walker said. “We usually hear about a handful of sightings every year.”
The Game and Fish department does not track the sightings in Yellowstone, but according to the park’s website, only seven have been documented in the park over the last 15 years.
Walker said the sightings the department hears about are usually in the western mountain area, though, around Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone and Cody.
However, it is an exciting event any time a wolverine is spotted in Wyoming, Walker said. He added he hopes such sightings occur more often and noted that the wolverine population has been expanding in the region, although ever so slowly.
“They’re still considered a species of great conservation need and they’re actually protected by law in Wyoming,” he said. “They fill kind of a middle predator role, where they will eat live prey, but they also do a lot of scavenging, too.”
An employee of Yellowstone Insight, a guiding company located outside the park in Montana, took many photos of the wolverine.
They reported seeing the animal at 11:38am on Saturday and said they watched the wolverine for three minutes until an oncoming vehicle made it scamper off the road and back into the wild.
But for those three minutes, they said they were thrilled.
“My guest said out loud, exactly what I was thinking, ‘Is that a bear?’, they wrote on their Facebook page.
“For a hot second, we both thought that it might be a young black bear moving away from us, but as it turned and looked over its right shoulder towards us – there was no mistaking that the animal was indeed, a Wolverine!”
Editor’s note: The story and headline originally said this was the seventh sighting, but it is believed to be the eighth.