By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
It may look like nothing more than a grainy blip, but that blip is something not seen very much in Wyoming.
It’s a wolverine and seeing wolverines in Wyoming is really quite rare. In fact, it’s only the second time one has been seen this year — which is a lot.
For perspective, a wolverine is only seen on average about every two years in Wyoming. That’s why it’s a big deal.
Out On A Run
Mike Devine, who took a video of a wolverine while out on a run in Darby Canyon over the weekend, told Cowboy State Daily he wasn’t sure exactly what he caught on his phone. Then he went home and went through the video and compared the footage to other wolverines he saw online.
“I started thinking that I actually saw one and then after just watching some videos on YouTube, I was pretty sure it was and then I sent it off to friends who worked at a EcoTours and they had it checked,” he said.
Thompson Tenley, a guide at Jackson Hole Eco Tours, said they forwarded the video to Wyoming Game and Fish which later confirmed the animal was a wolverine.
They instantly posted it to their Instagram page.
“Rare wolverine sighting on the west slope of the Tetons!” the company wrote. “Thank you to our friend Mike Devine for sending in this incredible footage.”
Not That Unusual?
Devine, a carpenter who lives in Victor, Idaho, said he was excited to spot the animal but more surprised it wasn’t as rare of a sighting that he thought.
“The more people I’ve talked to it’s kind of surprising like how many people have seen them,” he said listing many friends in the area who have also had encounters.
The sighting comes just a few months after a wolverine was video recorded in Yellowstone National Park.
Zack Walker, non-game supervisor with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that it was quite rare for there to be two video recorded sightings of a wolverine in the same year.
“We get a handful of observations every year, but a lot of them are on trail cams or people seeing them, but not being able to grab their phones or cameras fast enough,” Walker said. “It’s really big to have the opportunity to see those videos.”
Walker said from the wolverine management data the Game and Fish Department collected over the winter, it appears that wolverines are popping up in more locations than they did five years ago. While he said the data the department has now does not confirm the population is getting bigger, that is believed to be the case.
A wolverine was spotted in Yellowstone in March, likely the eighth time the creature has been seen in the park in 15 years.
Walker previously told Cowboy State Daily that wolverines are protected by state law.
In 2017, when the Wyoming Game and Fish Department last did wolverine monitoring, there were at least six confirmed individual wolverines in the state.
However, Wyoming is not alone in having low wolverine numbers.
The entire species nearly went extinct in the 1920s in the lower 48 states because of unregulated harvesting, habitat loss and broad-scale carnivore poisoning, according to the Game and Fish department.
“They’ve been naturally trickling back into the state over the years, reoccupying new areas,” Walker said in an earlier interview.
“The other part of why they’re so rare to see is because they’re really solitary animals. They have very large home ranges and they’re spaced out across the landscape. Life history has made it so you never really have any congregations of them in one place.”