In a rare event, a wolverine was spotted three times in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains in May, according to the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Officials believe the same wolverine was spotted by three different people — twice in the Inyo National Forest and once in Yosemite National Park, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.
After analyzing photos and videos from park visitors and consulting with experts and scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, the CDFW determined that the animal was indeed a wolverine due to its size, body proportion, coloration and movement patterns.
“Wolverines can travel great distances, making it likely that the recent sightings are all of the same animal,” said CDFW senior environmental scientist Daniel Gammons. “Because only two wolverines have been confirmed in California during the last 100 years, these latest detections are exciting.”
In California, in the last century, one wolverine was spotted in the 1920s and another was documented from 2008 to 2018, the statement said. It’s unlikely that the latter was the same animal spotted in May, as the average wolverine lifespan is 12 to 13 years.
Now, CDFW officials, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest and National Park Service, are hoping to collect a DNA sample from the spotted wolverine by collecting hair, scat or saliva found at feeding sites.
Typically, most wolverines, which are the largest member of the weasel family and resemble small bears, live in Canada and Alaska. There is also a small population of them living in the Rocky and Cascade mountains, according to the department.
In California, the wolverine is considered a protected species and is listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering adding the North American wolverine to its threatened species list, and will land on a decision by the end of November 2023.
It is estimated that there are currently 300 wolverines in the U.S., the National Wildlife Federation reported.
The CDFW is encouraging the public to report any sightings or observations of the wolverine on its website.