Looking back after a year at the first capture and collaring of a wolverine in Utah

UTAH — The feat of capturing and collaring the first wolverine in Utah by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources can’t be understated as wolverines are rather elusive creatures. Utah is listed as part of the North American wolverine’s historical range but not as part of its current range; the nearest population stopping at the Idaho and Wyoming borders according to current population mapping by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

There have only been eight confirmed sightings in Utah since 1979, with four of those occurring in 2021. Ever since the capture on March 11, 2022, DWR biologists have been able to track the young male wolverine’s movements.

For the DWR, everything started with a USDA-Wildlife Services flyover as they were conducting livestock protection work. The crew of the fished-wing aircraft noticed an animal feeding on a dead sheep and went in for a closer look and confirmed the sighting. It was determined that the wolverine had killed or wounded 18 sheep in the area that morning.

To increase the chance of capture, all of the dead sheep were removed. Two hindquarters were taken from the killed sheep and used as bait in two barrel traps placed by a DWR biologist and Utah Department of Agriculture trapper. Around mid-morning, a sheepherder checked the area to see the status of the traps and found the wolverine.

The wolverine was then examined, providing vital information for biologists. It was a male between 3-4 years old, weighed 28 pounds, and was 41 inches long. Wolverines are thought to have a lifespan of about ten years in the wild. Male wolverines are known to weigh up to 45 pounds.

Before the wolverine’s release, a GPS collar was placed on his neck. The animal was released on public land in the Uinta Mountains on the evening of March 11, 2022.

It’s one thing to understand that wolverines have a large home range, with males known to travel more than 560 miles, but the rate at which this wolverine has traveled back and forth over the Uintas has been eye-opening.

The North American Wolverine is currently listed as proposed threatened by USFWS.

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