A wolverine was spotted in Utah earlier this month, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reported this week, marking the third publicized sighting of the species in the state this year.
The wolverine was spotted on an elk hunter’s trail camera on the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains. The Oct. 3 sighting would mark the seventh confirmed observation of a wolverine in the state since the 1970s, but a wildlife biologist with the DWR stated that there have actually been five sightings this year, with only three publicized.
The last two publicized sightings this year were at Antelope Island State Park and in west Layton, and biologists believe those two sightings were the same wolverine. The typically elusive animals are usually rare in Utah. Before 2021, the last confirmed observation of a wolverine in the state was in 2016.
Adam Brewerton, a wildlife conservation biologist for the wildlife division, said other states have also recently spotted wolverines.
“It’s sort of evidence that the population as a whole — like, across the whole continent — is likely increasing and expanding,” Brewerton said. “This particular sighting, we are thinking it’s probably the same animal, just because of how rare it is to have one of these show up in the state, and just connecting the dots, timeline, we can’t really rule out that it’s a different one.”
The wolverine spotted Oct. 3 appeared about average in size, without any distinguishing markings that would have suggested it was a different wolverine than spotted previously. The animal was spotted near at least two coyotes, the elk hunter’s trail camera images show.
Brewerton said wolverines don’t typically engage in cooperative hunting with other animals, unlike their badger cousins, so the wolverine spotted Oct. 3 was likely engaging in an aggressive interaction with the coyotes.
Wolverines aren’t considered dangerous to humans, according to an expert on the species, but are naturally curious and considered “among the most aggressive predators on the landscape,” according to a Facebook comment from the wildlife division.
Brewerton said the wolverine spotted Oct. 3 was in an area near where the wildlife division plans to have a trail camera in the winter.
“So I’m kind of hopeful that we’ll be able to see if it sticks around or moves on, or what we’ll be able to do,” Brewerton said.
The last publicized wolverine sighting in the state happened in west Layton in July. On May 4, visitors to Antelope Island shot photos and video of a wolverine running, stopping, and running again across the dry bed of the Great Salt Lake.