SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said they are confident that video from Antelope Island State Park shows a rare wolverine sighting.
This would only be the fifth confirmed wolverine sighting in Utah and the first since June 2016.
“Wolverines are very rare to see because they are largely nocturnal and they are fast travellers, usually not staying long enough in an area to be found or seen,” said Adam Brewerton, wildlife conservation biologist at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “We believe this wolverine spotted on Antelope Island is just passing through as Antelope Island has no suitable habitat. It’s always exciting to hear of wolverine sightings in the state and especially when we have video evidence.
Jame Shook took the video and was thrilled to see the fearsome animal. “He saw us and started running towards the ground. And it has this slanted door that a wolverine has. It’s quite unique. I could just tell right off the bat that it was what it was.
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In a way, it was a dream come true for Shook.
“Seeing one is pretty exceptional. Seeing one in Utah is almost unheard of…yeah…amazing. And it’s funny, it’s been since I was six years old. There are no animals that I wanted to see more than a wolverine,” he said.
The posting of the video got a lot of people in Utah excited, but not everyone.
“I’ve been called a liar many times over the past few days, but that’s understandable, I mean it’s so extraordinary. You can’t really blame people for being skeptical.
Biologists drove to the area on Wednesday to try to locate the animal, but found no traces because the ground is so hard in this area of the state park.
“Particularly rare on Antelope Island to see a wolverine, as it’s just not wolverine habitat. They’re usually found in the high Uintas, rugged mountainous areas, and that’s part of why they’re so hard to see,” said DWR spokeswoman Faith Jolley.
DWR biologists said the animals typically scavenge carcasses and have been known to hunt many different types of animals, ranging from squirrels to birds to larger animals in deep snow.
Jolley added: “They have very large home ranges of around 350 square miles so they move around a lot, they don’t stay in one area very long. And we feel like with this wolverine, it was just kind of a passing through the area.
Wolverines are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but they are protected under Utah law.
The DWR receives several reports of wolverine sightings in the state each year, but the animals are so elusive that it’s unclear exactly how many are currently in Utah and whether there is an established population.
A single wolverine can have a home range of 350 miles and travel long distances, DWR officials said.
Most sightings are from the Upper Uintas, and the DWR has placed cameras in potential habitat areas to try to monitor wolverines in the state.
Confirmed Wolverine Sightings in Utah
- June 29, 2016: A female wolverine carcass has been found by the Utah Department of Transportation after being hit and killed by a vehicle about a mile west of Laketown, near Bear Lake in Rich County.
- December 2014: Traces of Wolverine were found near Dutch John.
- February 2014: A wolverine was captured in a photo at a camera bait station in the Uinta Mountains.
- 1979: A wolverine was hit and killed by a vehicle on US Highway 40, east of Vernal.