Utah biologists capture, collar and release wolverine for first time
Scientists in Utah have captured, collared and released a wolverine for the first time, in what wildlife officials are calling a “once-in-a-lifetime” event. Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said it was just the eighth confirmed wolverine sighting in Utah since 1979.
“It’s amazing to get a chance to see a wolverine in the wild, let alone catch one,” said Jim Christensen, DWR northern region wildlife manager. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Officials said that on March 10, an aircraft piloted by personnel from USDA-Wildlife Services was flying over Rich County, Utah when they noticed an animal feeding on a dead sheep. They flew a bit closer and confirmed the animal was a wolverine.
The dead sheep was one of 18 sheep the wolverine had killed or wounded in the area that morning, officials said.
Three traps were set using parts of a sheep carcass, and on March 11, one of them trapped the first wolverine ever captured by biologists in the state.
Officials said the wolverine was brought back to their Ogden office, where it was sedated and examined. Biologists determined the animal was a male between 3–4 years old. It weighed 28 pounds and was 41 inches long.
“The animal had good, sharp teeth,” Christensen said. “It was in really good condition.”
A GPS collar was attached to its neck before biologists transferred it to the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains where it was released on the evening of March 11.
Officials said the GPS data will show when and where the animal travels, the size of its home range and the type of habitats it uses at different times of the year.
“Having a collar on this wolverine will teach us things about wolverines in Utah that would be impossible to learn any other way,” Christensen said. “Four different wolverine sightings were confirmed in Utah in 2021. Were we seeing the same animal or different animals last year? Having a collar on this animal will help us solve that riddle.”
The unprecedented capture comes just days after a tour guide was able to photograph a wolverine in Yellowstone National Park. “With no other vehicles around, we were able to spend 3 full minutes in the presence of this unique and rare animal,” he wrote.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, wolverines are the largest land-living species in the weasel family, or mustelids. The group says about 60% of the wolverines’ habitat in the lower 48 states will be eradicated in the next seven decades because of climate change.
The federation says the rare animal also has a colorful array of nicknames, including woods devil, Indian devil, nasty cat and skunk bear.