A wolverine has been spotted in California for only the second confirmed time in nearly 100 years.
In May, the lone wolverine was spotted on cameras on two separate occasions in the Inyo National Forest in both Inyo and Mono counties, as well as a third sighting in Yosemite National Park in Tuolumne County.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife analyzed the videos and photos of the creature and consulted wolverine experts with the United States Forest Service. By analyzing the animal’s size, body shape, coloration and movement patterns, they were able to confirm that the animal spotted on camera was in fact a wolverine.
It’s an incredibly rare sighting in California, as wolverines tend to be primarily found in Canada and Alaska, with small populations located in the Rocky and Cascade mountain ranges.
“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.”
The last time a wolverine was confirmed to have been in California was in February 2008 in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee. Because the average lifespan of a wolverine is between 12 and 13 years, Fish and Wildlife said this recent sighting is almost definitely a different wolverine.
Prior to the 2008 sighting, a wolverine had not been confirmed to have been in California since the 1920s.
Wolverines are the largest land-dwelling member of the weasel family and officials say they can resemble a small bear. They are classified as fully protected in California, and listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act.
Fish and Wildlife officials are working with the Forest Service and the National Park Service to collect genetic samples from this wolverine, either through hair, scat or saliva found at its recent feeding sites.
The wolverine sighting is a good reminder about the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Incident Reporting System, which allows the public to report sightings or observations to Fish and Wildlife for investigation.