In California's Sierra Nevada, an 'Exciting' Rare Find

For only 2nd time since early 1920s, a wolverine is spotted wandering the Golden State
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2023 7:33 AM CDT
In California's Sierra Nevada, an 'Exciting' Rare Find
This May 2023 image shows a rare wolverine sighting in the Eastern Sierra Nevada in California.   (National Park Service via AP)

A mystery creature that's been spotted in recent weeks wandering the Eastern Sierra in California has been identified, and wildlife officials are marveling. NBC News reports that on Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the animal is a lone rare wolverine, seen once last month in Yosemite National Park and twice in Inyo National Forest, more than 100 miles away. The wolverine was positively identified using photos and video from witnesses. "These latest detections are exciting," Daniel Gammons, a senior environmental scientist with the DFW, says in a statement, adding they believe all three sightings are the same animal, as "wolverines can travel great distances."

Before these sightings, wolverines disappeared from California in the 1920s. There was another visiting wolverine in the Golden State's Tahoe National Forest from 2000 to 2018—a creature then nicknamed "Buddy" by wildlife officials—but it's believed the most recently spotted animal is a different one, as wolverines only live about a dozen years or so, per Smithsonian. Ryan Campbell tells SFGate he saw the wolverine several weeks back while skiing at Mammoth Mountain and riding the lift. "We saw it running toward a nearby clump of trees," he says. "Then, we noticed why it started running. A skier was coming down the slope and took the jump, likely never having seen how close they were."

The AP notes that the disappearance of these native animals appears to be linked to the hunting and fur trapping that proliferated for years after the gold rush, even though that's not been definitively found to be the cause. Overall, there are probably about a few hundred to 1,000 wolverines total in the contiguous US; the animal has been proposed as an entry under the federal Endangered Species Act. It's already listed as a threatened species in California. The DFW plans to keep tracking the latest one seen—which they believe ended up in California after wandering away from a neighboring population—by gathering hair samples and droppings when possible, and via photos and video that other observers can hopefully capture. (Read more wolverines stories.)

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