utah state officials have captured a live wolverine and put a gps collar on it for the first time in the state. These rare animals have only had eight confirmed sightings in Utah since 1979, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
“It’s amazing to get the chance to see a wolverine in the wild, let alone catch one,” says DWR Northern Region Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen in a statement. “This was a once in a lifetime experience.”
staff from the u.s. department of agriculture wildlife services team first spotted the animal near randolph, utah, about two hours northeast of salt lake city, while flying over the area for the livestock protection work on March 10. The wolverine was feeding on a dead sheep, one of 18 it had killed or injured that morning, according to the dwr.
According to officials, the Utah DWR set up traps using two sheep hindquarters as bait and captured the wolverine on March 11. biologists sedated and examined him, determining that he was a male between three and four years old. it weighed 28 pounds and was 41 inches long from nose to end of tail. After the collar was put on him, the officials released him in the uinta mountains.
Wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family. They are known to be ferocious predators with the ability to take down animals many times their size. Although they often hunt smaller animals or feed on carrion, they can kill an animal as large as a caribou if the animal is weak or injured, according to National Geographic.
Wolverines are found primarily in remote areas of northern Europe, Asia, and North America. Utah is at the southern end of the wolverine’s current range in the US. USA, but its historical range once extended to the northern regions of the country. Wolverine numbers declined in the 1900s due to trappers and predator control efforts, according to the National Park Service. only 25 to 300 are now believed to live in the lower 48.
These animals depend on snow for their dens and climate change is considered one of their main threats.
“Wolverines are very rare to see because they are largely nocturnal and travel fast, typically not staying in an area long enough to be found or seen,” said dwr wildlife conservation biologist, adam brewerton, in a statement last year.
Wolverines can have a home range of up to 350 square miles, according to the dwr, and can travel up to 15 miles a day in search of food.
last year, utah officials confirmed four sightings of wolverines, though it was unclear if they were all the same animal. The GPS collar will provide “invaluable information to biologists,” according to the DWR, which will be used to monitor wolverines in Utah.
“the opportunity to capture and be able to study an animal that we have wanted to know for a long time, but that is very difficult to capture and put a gps collar on it, so that it can track it, it is really great to have been able to”, he tells abc7 mark hadley, utah dwr spokesperson.