Wolverines have been spotted in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park for the first time in 100 years.
The National Park Service (NPS) reported that a female and her two offspring (called kits) were recorded roaming around the park and says this is an extremely rare occurrence.
“In North America, population estimates range from 6.2 wolverines per 600 square miles in high-quality habitat to 0.3 per 600 square miles in low-quality habitat. There are estimated to be only 300-1000 individual wolverines in the lower 48 U.S. states,” says the NPS.
The NPS says that the Cascades Carnivore Project, a conservation science research non-governmental organization consisting of volunteers and scientists, helped make the wolverine discovery possible.
Wolverine family at Mount Rainier National Park. Credit: Cascades Carnivore Project/NPS
“Many species that live at high elevation in the Pacific Northwest, such as the wolverine, are of particular conservation concern due to their unique evolutionary histories and their sensitivity to climate change,” says Dr. Jocelyn Akins, who leads the Cascades Carnivore Project.
“They serve as indicators of future changes that will eventually affect more tolerant species and, as such, make good models for conservation in a changing world.”
The NPS says the number of wolverine sightings that have recently been confirmed in the park could indicate that they may start returning.
Camera stations have been installed to photograph and identify individual wolverines. The park states that the locations of camera stations and the den will not be released in order to “protect wolverines from potential harm or accidental disturbance.”