Wolverines have been spotted on Washington’s Mount Rainier, and it’s causing quite a stir.
For the first time in more than 100 years, a mother and two offspring, called kits, were photographed in Mount Rainier National Park.
“It’s really, really exciting,” said Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins in a statement from the National Park Service. “It tells us something about the condition of the park— that when we have such large-ranging carnivores present on the landscape that we’re doing a good job of managing our wilderness.”
Scientists are hopeful that the sighting of a reproductive female and kits means wolverines may start returning to the park. Camera stations were installed in 2018 to photograph and identify wolverines based on their distinctive chest fur patterns. The stations can also detect if the wolverine is a lactating female, as is the case with the one spotted recently.
Anyone heading out on a hike, ski or snowmobile trip in the backcountry are asked to help monitor the growth of the wolverine population.
“Wolverines are solitary animals and despite their reputation for aggressiveness in popular media, they pose no risk to park visitors. If you are lucky enough to see one in the wild, it will likely flee as soon as it notices you,” said Dr. Tara Chestnut, a park ecologist.
Wolverines are rare in this country, it is estimated there are only 300-1,000 individual animals in the lower 48 states. Canada has an estimated population of 15,000-19,000; Russia, Sweden and Norway also have large populations of wolverines.