Sustainability Environment

Wolverine captured, collared in ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’ for Utah researchers

Story at a glance

  • Utah biologists captured and collared a wolverine in the state for the first time on March 11.
  • There have only been eight confirmed wolverine sightings in Utah since 1979.
  • The wolverine population was decimated in the lower 48 by the 1930s due to commercial trapping and predator control efforts and has never fully recovered.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) had a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” last week when it captured and collared a wolverine found wandering Rich County. There have only been eight confirmed wolverine sightings in Utah since 1979.   

“We are so grateful for the awesome collaboration with USDA-Wildlife Services and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and their assistance with this exciting wildlife research opportunity,” DWR Northern Region Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen said in a press release.   

The wolverine was initially spotted on March 10 by personnel from USDA-Wildlife Services, who observed it from an aircraft feeding on dead sheep.   

Setting up barrel traps near where the wolverine had killed and wounded 18 sheep, officials, with the aid of the landowner and a sheepherder, were able to lure the wolverine into one of the traps by March 11. It marked the first wolverine to be captured by biologists in the state.   

Officials with both Utah DWR and Wildlife Services sedated the wolverine and transported it to the DWR Ogden office so they could monitor its vitals as they drew blood, collected samples to assess its health, took measurements and fit it with a GPS collar. 


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“The animal had good, sharp teeth,” Christensen said. “It was in really good condition.”   

The GPS collar will allow biologists and wildlife officials to monitor and track the wolverine’s travels and habitat, offering an insight into the rare animal not typically seen.   

“Having a collar on this wolverine will teach us things about wolverines in Utah that would be impossible to learn any other way,” Christensen said. 

The wolverine population was decimated in the lower 48 by the 1930s due to commercial trapping and predator control efforts and has never fully recovered, making insights into its habitat and movements all the more valuable.    

After they collared the wolverine, officials reversed the drugs’ effects and released the animal to the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains later that evening.   

“It’s amazing to get a chance to see a wolverine in the wild, let alone catch one,” said Christensen. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”   

The collaring of this Utah wolverine comes on the heels of a tour guide capturing a rare photograph of a wolverine in Yellowstone National Park on March 5. The photograph was deemed to have captured an “amazing moment” as there are believed to only be six or seven wolverines within Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres. 


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