California scientists are excited about the recent sightings of a wolverine, only the second in the state in the last 100 years.
Researchers last documented a wolverine in the Golden State between 2008 and 2018 near Lake Tahoe. Since the animal only lives for 12 to 13 years, scientists believe this recent animal is different. The last confirmed sighting before 2008 was in the 1920s, CDFW says.
Several people took photos and videos of wolverines in Inyo National Forest and Yosemite National Park in May. Officials from the US Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife analyzed the size, colors and door and determined that all sightings were of the same animal.
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“Wolverines can travel great distances, so it is likely that the recent sightings are all of the same animal,” CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Daniel Gammons said in a statement. “Because only two wolverines have been confirmed in California over the past 100 years, these latest detections are exciting.”
It looks like a small bear but it’s a weasel
The bear-like animal is actually the largest member of the weasel family to live on dry land. It’s not unusual to find one in Canada and Alaska, areas that receive deep snow. Only small populations live in the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades.
Just two months ago, authorities reported the first wolverine sighting near Portland, Oregon, in more than 30 years. However, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife believes the animal was passing through.
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The species grows from 26 to 41 inches long with a 5 to 10 inch bushy tail, according to Britannica.com. The largest males can weigh up to 66 pounds, but most are between 18 and 40 pounds.
“The wolverine is noted for its strength, cunning, bravery and voracity, and the species is renowned for its ability to face and fight larger predators more than twice its size,” the encyclopedia states.
One can travel up to 30 miles in search of food, mostly alone and at night. The carnivore calls porcupines, squirrels, elk, deer and cattle a meal.
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Hunters have reduced the population worldwide. Wolverine fur became popular as a trim on winter outerwear because the threads are soft and the frost is easily removed.
Ranchers and farmers also reduce the population through hunting and poisoning because wolverines attack livestock, according to Britannica.
“Scientists studying North American wolverines have observed important population declines in regions experiencing strong declines in snow cover,” the encyclopedia continues.
The California Endangered Species Act lists the animal as threatened.