Wolverine Spotted in Colorado

     For the first time in 90 years, the presence of a wild wolverine has been documented in Colorado. 

     Last year, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society captured several wolverines in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, fitted them with radio-tracking collars, and then released them.   One of the wolverines traveled south about 500 miles during April and May, and crossed into Colorado.  He successfully navigated many human-made obstacles, including Interstate-80!

     Weighing 20-30 pounds, wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family.  These bear-like animals once roamed throughout the high mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, and California.  But none had been spotted in Colorado since 1919.  Wolverines had been virtually wiped out of the lower 48 states by 1930, thanks to poisoning efforts by farmers and ranchers and to hunting.

     While the presence of a single male wolverine does not ensure that others will follow and establish a colony in a state where the species once thrived, the entry of one wolverine is indeed a hopeful sign.  Scientists are continuing to monitor the Colorado wolverine and the others who were released along with him months ago in Wyoming.

     Since wolverines have been studied very little, not much is known about them, scientists say.  But they hope to learn more by tracking the animals.  

     Scientists do know that a wolverine roams about as widely as a grizzly bear, as much as 500 square miles for an adult male.  Consequently, the number of wolverines a given area can support is limited.  The animals tend to stay above the timberline, where near-arctic conditions are common. 

     The wolverine in Colorado was the second recent sighting in an area that had been devoid of wolverines for decades.  The first  was in northern California’s Tahoe National Forest.  “The single instances of male wolverines being documented in California in 2008 and now Colorado are encouraging,” says Shawn Sartorius of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “But it remains to be seen if females can make similar movements that would be required to establish populations.”

     One thing is clear, biologists say.  The dispersal of young wolverines from one mountain range to another where there are unrelated individuals is essential if a colony is to develop.

     Wolverines are nocturnal animals, spending their days resting in an informal den beneath a boulder or a downed tree.  By night they wander about, eating rodents and carrion.  Occasionally, they may eat a weakened deer or other large prey.  Despite humans’ efforts to rid the west of them years ago, they do not generally attack cattle, and no wolverine has been known to attack a human.–April Moore


4 Responses to “Wolverine Spotted in Colorado”

  1. Diane Says:

    Seems like a good sign!

  2. Tanya Says:

    Thank you for the exciting news. When we lived in Alaska we were doing a float trip in a fairly remote part of the state and one evening saw one on the shore. I’ll never forget his eerie yowl at us.

  3. Barbara M. Geiger Says:

    Hi April,
    Thanks for the lovely website!
    At the homeless outreach center where I work, some of the homeless men that live in a woods in Rockville, MD reported that they had seen what we determined was probably a wolverine. We came up with that a definte likelihood after conferring with the county’s (Montgomery)animal control department. Workers in that department confirmed that there were wolverines in the county, having come down from Canada (they supposed) along railroad tracks.
    Another former volunteer/member of the Midatlantic Audubon Society in Chevy Chase, MD.,
    Barbara Geiger “All is wonder or all is not.” – A. Einstein

  4. April Says:

    Wow! A wolverine as far south as Maryland. Amazing!

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