In a thrilling development, California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains have seen multiple sightings of a wolverine, believed to be the same individual, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The sightings were confirmed in May in two distinct locations: the Inyo National Forest across Inyo and Mono counties and Yosemite National Park in Tuolumne County.
Captured in images and video footage sent by different individuals in separate locations, the wolverine’s identity was confirmed through careful analysis by the CDFW and wolverine experts from the U.S. Forest Service. Recognized by its distinctive size, coloration, body proportion, and movement patterns, the sightings were further authenticated by CDFW field teams who confirmed the exact locations via coordinates embedded in the submitted visual evidence.
Senior Environmental Scientist at CDFW, Daniel Gammons, highlighted the wolverine’s ability to cover great distances, leading to the belief that all recent sightings pertain to a single animal. “Because only two wolverines have been confirmed in California during the last 100 years, these latest detections are exciting,” said Gammons.
Previously, a single wolverine had been documented in the state from 2008 to 2018, discovered in the Truckee region of the Tahoe National Forest in February 2008. It’s believed that the recent detections are likely from a different individual, considering the average lifespan of the species is around 12 to 13 years.
Before the 2008 sighting, the last wolverine presence confirmed in California dates back to the 1920s. These large land-dwelling members of the weasel family, resembling small bears, are primarily found in Canada and Alaska, with smaller populations in the Rocky and Cascade mountains. Wolverines hold a fully protected status in California and are listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act.
In light of these sightings, the CDFW has announced plans to work closely with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service to collect genetic samples from the wolverine. This will be achieved through gathering hair, scat, or saliva found at feeding sites. The public is being encouraged to assist by reporting any sightings or observations to the CDFW through its Wildlife Incident Reporting system.