Wolverines typically occupy high-elevation alpine and forest habitats © Alexandr Junek Imaging/Shutterstock
One of the rarest animals making its home in Yellowstone National Park has been spotted on a remote trail camera located in the park.
Animal experts captured footage of a wild wolverine outside of the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park, which is in north-western Wyoming. Wolverines are mid-sized carnivores in the weasel family that typically occupy high-elevation alpine and forest habitats. They exist in low densities in the park and are rarely detected so park biologists were excited to discover that a wolverine had triggered a remote trail camera.
Only seven wolverines were documented in Yellowstone and adjoining forests between 2006 and 2009. Park biologists have been using remote cameras to monitor the cougar population since 2014, but say that this technology has become increasingly valuable for detecting and monitoring a variety of species and aspects of Yellowstone’s ecology. This is the first video footage of a wolverine since remote cameras have been deployed in the park, and the black and white trail camera footage shows a wolverine running through a snow-blanketed, forested area.
According to the National Parks Service, the wolverine is active throughout the year in cold, snowy environments to which it is well adapted. Wolverines have low reproductive rates, and climate-change models predict that by 2050, the spring snowpack needed for wolverine denning and hunting will be limited to portions of the southern Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada range and greater Yellowstone.
Wolverine, Gulo gulo, a huge beast. © Vladislav T. Jirousek/Shutterstock
Wolverines are so rarely seen and inhabit such remote terrain at low densities that assessing population trends is difficult and sudden declines could go unnoticed for years. There are estimated to be only 300-1000 individual wolverines in the lower 48 US states. Last August, a family of wolverines was spotted in Mt Rainier National Park in Washington for the first time in 100 years.
To learn more about wolverines, visit the National Park Service website here.