Wolverine, © Ken Curtis

Wolverine Sightings

Kylie Paul, Rockies & Plains Representative
Russell Talmo, Wolverine Project Assistant

WolverineIt’s not every day that you get to see a wolverine. In fact, wolverine sightings are extremely rare, even if you live in wolverine habitat. That’s why Defenders and other organizations are enlisting the help of outdoor enthusiasts, backcountry users and wolverine fans across the West to report any wolverine sightings or observations of wolverine tracks. If you are traveling in the backcountry in the western United States (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Utah) and see a wolverine or wolverine track, we want to hear about it. And the Backcountry Wolverine Watchers project makes it pretty simple.

Several research institutes have reporting pages on their websites that gather observational data on wolverines. These observations provide helpful baseline information for biologists in the U.S. and Canada about one of North America’s least-known carnivores. Defenders is working to help these organizations collect more observations, as we’re always working to raise awareness about the magnificent wolverine and its proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

These elusive creatures spend most of their time in remote and rugged high alpine terrain in the West – some of the same places that backcountry skiers, hikers, horsemen and others visit year-round.  As a result, those backcountry users have the highest likelihood of spotting a wolverine or wolverine sign.  So, Defenders is spreading the word to local outdoor organizations and retailers and at outdoor-focused events, handing out wolverine identification cards [PDF] and an informational poster that explains how to identify and report wolverine sign to the websites that pool the information.  By reaching out to these recreation-loving folks that share an intrinsic appreciation for wild country and wildlife, we are raising awareness and gaining invaluable information. Plus, when a hiker or skier knows that they live and play in valuable wolverine habitat, they are more likely to ‘tread softly’ while they are out there.

Wolverine posterMost of us have never seen a wolverine, so it can be pretty exciting if you do see one – or if you see something that you think is a wolverine. There are plenty of mistaken identifications out there – people commonly confuse badgers, marmots, small bears, and domestic dogs for wolverines. Even if you live in a western state where wolverines occur, it is darn unlikely that the creature you’re staring at is a wolverine. The best bet? Take a photo! Without one, it is really tough to verify what you saw. With that photo, record as much information as possible: color and markings, size, location (get GPS point or find it on a map), terrain, speed of travel, time and date.

One handy thing about the elusive wolverine — just like anything else walking in the snow — they leave tracks behind! So again, if you’re way up high in snowy, mountainous terrain and come across a five-toed track (canines and cats have 4 toes), look more closely. Characteristics of a wolverine track include: 4-inch wide print; five toes, chevron-shaped interdigital pad, and oval-shaped heel pad; and prints are close together compared to those of a wolf, lynx, or mountain lion since wolverines have shorter legs.

Again, most importantly, photograph the track so others can verify it. Make sure you include something in it for size scale (like keys, cell phone, pen or coins). Measure or estimate the size of individual prints and distance between tracks (length and width between tracks). Describe the track, the snow conditions and time since last snow, note time and date, and locate the area on a map – ideally, take a GPS point.

If you’re lucky enough to see a wolverine track or a wolverine itself, please then report it to the relevant site:
If you’re in the western U.S., go to The Wolverine Foundation.
If you’re in Canada, go to Wolverine Watch.
If you’re in Wyoming, go to Nature Mapping: Wolverine Project.

For more information about Wolverines and Defenders work to help protect them, or if you wish to comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed ESA protection, Click Here.

7 Responses to “Wolverine Sightings”

  1. Stele Ely

    Wolverine Dreams is a love song about 2 wolverines. It is at http://voxerth.net/wolverine-dreams/
    one wolverine dreams
    of slow voles, and dead things
    to savor tummy yummies
    drink waters so pristine
    with no lead or mercury
    that dirty coal is history

    my wild self is howling
    to help her dreams come true
    gonna conserve electricity at home and work too
    (optional: her wild love is howling
    cuz her dream is coming true [howl]

    one wolverine dreams
    to play on cornice lips
    and dance on glacier prisms
    to ponder on icy mountains
    saved from CO2 regimes
    by climate protests, laws and screams

    my wild heart is howling
    to help his dreams come true
    travel green, rideshare and carbon offset too [howl]
    (optional: his wild love is howling
    cuz his dream is coming true [howl]

    two wolverines dream
    for home under aurora trees
    to romp and roll, whisker kiss
    curl fur to fur in (sacred) bliss
    free from chainsaw schemes
    and the paper companies

    my wild love is howling
    to help their dreams come true
    gonna use less paper, recycle, reuse and donate too …

    Reply
  2. Ryan McHenry

    Saw a wolverine running along the road running between Shaver Lake, CA and Hunnington Lake last year. It totally shocked me to see it. Was very cool experience.

    Reply
  3. Marilyn Snyder

    To Ryan McHenry – WOW, you are truly blessed to see such a rare sight!!!

    Reply
  4. Shanna Swanson

    I found a dead wolverine in the Madison Range of Montana up Mill Creek near Cameron. I do have photos of it.

    Reply

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