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Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 5:33 pm
by dave54

Finally, proof.

There have been sightings for years in the Lassen/Almanor area, by loggers, utility workers, public, non-biologist Forest Service employees, etc. But because the reporting parties were not wildlife biologists or considered 'reliable' all the reports were dismissed.

Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 6:21 pm
by markskor
Yup, vindication...
Had the pleasure of spotting one a few years back, winter in Tuolumne...was dismissed as error because I did not have the "badge". Guess 7 years at UCLA Zoology meant nothing.
Way to go Sac Bee!

Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 7:52 pm
by hikerduane
I saw something 30-40 lbs. 12-15 years ago, in the summer while on a week bp trip. It was rust colored and I only saw the east end as it was west bound for a second. My local Game Warden wasn't sure what I saw. Said maybe.

Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:02 pm
Great find!
Here's the article:
Elusive wolverine makes its first Sierra appearance in years

By Tom Knudson -
Last Updated 6:05 am PST Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A12

TRUCKEE – The high school mascot in this mountain town may be the wolverine, but none of the students has ever spotted one of the elusive forest carnivores, known for their voraciousness and distaste for civilization.

Even scientists who have looked far and wide, tromping almost the entire span of the Sierra Nevada from Mount Whitney in the south to Mount Lassen up north – have found nothing. The last confirmed Sierra wolverine was shot as a scientific specimen in 1922.

The first known photo of a wolverine in the Sierra Nevada ever, this was taken at the Sagehen Creek Field Station by a graduate student who wasn't even looking for wolverines. (Courtesy of Katie Moriarty/Oregon State University/ Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station)

Last year, a team of scientists reported that the wolverine – a chocolate-brown weasel the size of a border collie but as vicious as a grizzly bear – had apparently vanished from the Sierra long ago, squeezed out by human activity.

Now one has been found in the Tahoe National Forest north of Truckee. The sighting, captured by a graduate student's remote control camera at a rustic field station, could have widespread implications for future land-use decisions ranging from logging to ski-resort expansion in the fast-growing Truckee region.

Coincidentally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing whether to place the wolverine on the endangered species list – a decision that could lead to a new round of spotted owl-style development conflicts.

Potential controversy aside, the discovery was greeted with enthusiasm around Truckee.

"Oh my goodness! That is so exciting," said Susan Lowder, a chemistry and physics teacher at Truckee High School. "So when are the grizzlies coming back? And the wolves?"

Ray Butler, a member of the Nevada County Fish and Wildlife Commission who lives in Truckee, was thrilled, too. "I'm going to have a single malt tonight," Butler said. "Other than a saber-toothed cat, this is about as good as it will ever get in California nowadays."

William Zielinski, a research ecologist with the Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Field Research Station and a forest carnivore specialist, said there's little doubt the animal in the photo is a wolverine. Beyond that, not much else is known.

Scientists aren't sure, Zielinski explained, whether the animal is a bona fide Sierra Nevada native or a long-distance migrant that wandered in from the North Cascades in Washington or the Sawtooths in northern Idaho – its two closest home ranges. Another possibility, although slim, is that someone may have released a captive wolverine into the wild.

"Nobody knows of any captive wolverines in the California area," Zielinski said. Some animals, though, are kept as captives for photography and other purposes in Canada and the Pacific Northwest. "It would have been a pretty unusual and diabolical event to have someone travel a great distance with a wolverine and release it," Zielinski said.

The discovery came about by accident. The researcher, Katie Moriarty, a graduate student at Oregon State University, wasn't looking for wolverines. She was studying martens, a slender brown weasel fond of old-growth forests, at the Sagehen Creek Field Station between Truckee and Sierraville, just west of Highway 89.

The work – part of a master's degree thesis – was going well, according to Zielinski, who was supervising Moriarty's project from his office in Arcata. By baiting locations with raw chicken and positioning a motion-detecting digital camera nearby, Moriarty was capturing a diverse gallery of Sierra wildlife, including martens, a spotted skunk, bobcat and black bear.

Then Sunday morning at 7:15, the phone rang at Zielinski's home. It was Moriarty, her voice trembling. "Bill," she said. "Check your e-mail. Just check your e-mail."

Alarmed, Zielinski sat down at his computer. "I was really frightened because she doesn't call me at home much at all," he said.

He logged on, called up Moriarty's e-mail and opened the attachment. There was a healthy-looking wolverine with an almond colored stripe, caught by the camera from behind, digging into the snow for a scrap of chicken.

It is the first known photo of a wolverine in the Sierra Nevada – ever.



Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:15 pm
by SSSdave
That light ring of fur around the neck pretty much nails it. Long live California Wolverines!

As a native California that has been yearly backpacking and hiking into remote Sierra areas, this is hands down the whopper animal story of my lifetime. There have been so many decades of only vague sightings that one has to be rather suspicious that what some have seen is more likely a pine marten or fisher from a distance. For all the days I've been out in the Sierra, I've never seen any fishers and only one pine marten. Many nights when packed into remote locales where no hikers, backpackers, fishermen, or climbers would have any reason to visit, I've wondered at night if just maybe one of these oh so sly creatures might saunter by. Now all those wonderings will take on a new life when I'm out there.


Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 9:46 pm
by gdurkee
I'm not sure where they came up with that "first sighting in the Sierra since 1922" -- that's not even close. I think Sequoia has over 60 sightings the last century, with a fair number in the last 20 years. Yosemite also has a similar number of sightings. Both have sightings by well-qualified people. Markskor sent me the specifics of his sightings and that was definitely credible. On the other hand, a winter tracking study a few years back found no evidence of them and the biologist doing the study concluded, incorrectly I believe, that they were extinct in the Sierra.

But a truly great event to get a photo of one. The only other Sierra photo I'm aware of was Orland Bartholomew getting a good photo of tracks on Glen Pass in 1929. In addition, he saw the critter for several days as they kept pace with eachother going north.


Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:00 pm
by dave54
"...I'm not sure where they came up with that "first sighting in the Sierra since 1922" -- that's not even close..."

It's from the Sac Bee. They must not have a fact checker on staff, given their chronic errors on a variety of topics.

Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 11:31 am
by copeg
Another update on Wolverines:
Research camera snaps more photos of wolverine in Sierra Nevada

The Associated Press
Article Launched: 03/22/2008 04:47:22 PM PDT

SACRAMENTO—Researchers this week snapped two photographs of a wolverine in the Sierra Nevada, which scientists said bolstered evidence that the elusive animal is roaming the 400-mile long mountain range.

The two new photos surfaced several weeks after an Oregon State University graduate student shot the first picture of a wolverine in California since the 1920s.

Researchers also found wolverine tracks and collected about 50 hair and feces samples this month in an attempt to identify the animal's heritage and determine if there is more than one in the area.

"It's helping scientists learn if the animal came from another area, escaped from captivity or is from a historical population," said Department of Fish and Game spokesman Steve Martarano.
Researchers, biologists and volunteers have spent the past few weeks combing the Tahoe National Forest searching for wolverines since graduate student Kathy Moriarty first discovered the animal on Feb. 28.

At the time, she was trying to get pictures of martens, which are slender brown weasels, for a project she was doing with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Research Station. Her photo of the wolverine was produced from a motion-and-heat-detecting digital camera set up between Truckee and Sierraville.

It remains unclear whether this week's photos are images of the same wolverine, Martarano said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said earlier this month that wolverines do not warrant endangered species protections in the contiguous United States, however the new discovery in California has prompted them to conduct a 12-month review in the Sierra Nevada, state wildlife officials say. The wolverine is listed as a threatened species under California state law.

"It is too early to say how this will affect the national forest," said Tom Quinn, Tahoe National Forest Supervisor, in a news release. "We are working with the researchers and wolverine experts to learn as much as we can."

If the wolverine were declared an endangered species in California, it could affect land-use decisions in the Sierra Nevada, although most wolverines live at high altitudes away from developments.

Re: Wolverines in the Sierra

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2008 11:38 am
by gdurkee
I just posted (at long last) several new articles on Sierra Nature Notes (, including a study on wolverine done two years ago: ... I_2007.htm

Although the authors conclude that wolverine are likely extirpated from the southern Sierra, take a look at the maps I put together of historic sightings in both Yosemite and Sequoia Kings: ... -Large.jpg ... _Large.jpg

Also note the follow-up on the DNA of the Tahoe wolverine -- not a California critter.


Wolverine Documented on Sierra Pacific Industries Forest Lan

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 11:20 am
Wolverine Documented on Sierra Pacific Industries Forest Lands in California

MyLincoln California
3/17/09 09:35 AM

Researchers at Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) have documented a rare male North American wolverine (Gulo gulo) on SPI’s managed forest lands in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The sighting on SPI’s forest lands follows a photo of a wolverine taken by a graduate student in 2008 about 15 miles from the SPI location. The endemic wolverine is listed by the State of California as a threatened species and holds special protection status under California law. Until these sightings, the presence of wolverines in the state had not been confirmed since the 1920’s.

Using DNA extracted from hair samples collected at photo stations, Dr. Michael Schwartz at the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station concluded the wolverine was the same individual photographed in both locations. It is not a descendent of the last known Southern Sierra Nevada population. Based on analysis of its DNA, it most closely resembles genetic types found throughout the Northern Rocky Mountains.

The wolverine detections were made using movement-operated cameras as part of SPI’s ongoing comprehensive wildlife monitoring program. The sightings occurred on the company’s forest lands in December and January northwest of Truckee, California. These lands have been privately owned since the 1860’s and have produced forest products since the 1930’s. The most recent harvest in the area occurred in 2008.

“This is a rare and exciting experience for wildlife experts and forest managers,” said SPI biologist Amanda Shufelberger. “Including the wolverine among the 250-plus wildlife species known to inhabit SPI lands is a welcome addition and supports the concept of balancing sustainable production of forest products with the protection of wildlife habitat” noted Shufelberger.

She added that SPI will continue to work cooperatively with the Department of Fish and Game in future forest carnivore surveys.

The North American wolverine is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. Adult males weigh 26 to 40 pounds, while females are 17 to 26 pounds. It resembles a small bear, with a bushy tail and broad head. The wolverine’s diet includes carrion, small mammals, birds, insects, berries, and fungi.

U.S. populations are found largely in the Northern Cascades in Washington, the Northern Rockies in Montana and Idaho, and in Alaska. Wolverines have large home ranges that vary greatly depending upon gender, age and food availability.

Sierra Pacific Industries is a third-generation family-owned forest products company based in Anderson, California. Sierra Pacific is committed to managing its lands in a responsible and sustainable manner to protect the environment while providing quality wood products for consumers.