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Wolverine Photographed in Rocky Mountain National Park


The wolverine is a fast-moving wanderer. Thinkquest photo.

A wolverine has turned up in northern Colorado and was recently photographed in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s been a very long time since a wolverine has prowled this terrain.

It can create quite a stir when species that were regionally extirpated long ago are once again seen in their former haunts, especially when they show up without benefit of human assistance. Such was the case, for example, when a lynx was photographed in Yellowstone National Park in November 2007..

We’d like to think that our national parks could once again have their full complement of native species, so there’s an extra measure of satisfaction when a species shows up of its own accord in one of these special places. These events not only provide tangible evidence that we are doing a good job of habitat preservation in our national parks, but also serve as touchstones of progress along the way to the restoration of “whole ecosystems.”

Now a wolverine has been photographed in Rocky Mountain National Park, a place where no wolverine has been seen – at least not for certain –since the park was established in 1915. Thanks to this verified sighting, 2009 will now go down in the books as the year that wolverines returned to northern Colorado and to Rocky Mountain National Park. Well, at least one wolverine that we know of.

Where this particular wolverine came from is not a mystery. Earlier this year it was radio-collared for research purposes (the Greater Yellowstone Wolverine Program) in the Yellowstone ecosystem way up in northwestern Wyoming. An adult wolverine like this one would be a compact, muscular animal weighing about 30 to 40 pounds and stretching to about three or four feet in length, tail and all.

This wolverine managed to travel around 500 miles into northern Colorado over a period of several months. Wolverines are fast-moving, notorious wanderers, but they are also reclusive and don’t like to be around people. Even by wolverine standards, this particular journey, which involved crossing Interstate 80 and dealing with numerous other hazards, was an amazing feat.

One of the people who saw the wolverine in the park was a wildlife photographer who managed to get a good picture of it – radio collar and all -- at a place above the treeline not far from the park’s Trail Ridge Road. Hard evidence like this is rare, and wildlife biologists are delighted to have it.

Where this wandering wolverine might turn up next remains anybody’s guess. An even better question is whether there are other wolverines in northern Colorado, and when a breeding population might be established. There’ve been no breeding populations of wolverines anywhere in California, Utah, or the southern Rockies for nearly 80 years.


My wife and I were hiking up to Boulder Field for an overnight trip to climb Longs Peak. When we were coming up to Granite Pass I remembered telling my wife that someone's dog was taking a shit at the top. I notice the somewhat hunched back with a flopping tail. After thinking about it, it really looked like a gaint marmot that I started calling the "mardog." After returning home and looking up pictures on the wolverine I quickly realized what it was that I actually saw. This wolverine didn't see us and walked into a rock cave on the eastern side of the East Longs Peak trail junction. This wolverine was easily 4 feet long and a good 2-2.5 feet tall.

Some friends and I had one of these cross our trail early moring on July 13, 2010 at 13,000 feet while climbing Mt. Elbert. It was too fast for the cameras, but the facial features, fur color contrasts and the tail are a dead giveaway.

Some friends and I came across one early morning July 13, 2010 at 13,000 feet while climbing Mt. Elbert, got a good look but it was too fast for the cameras. The tail and facial contrasts are a dead giveaway though.

My son and I met a wolverine as we descended Bowen Gulch Trail in the Never Summer Wilderness just west of RMNP on Sunday, Aug 1, 2010. We didn't see a collar, but we didn't get a good head-on look because he was carrying a small animal in his mouth. When he saw us, he spun around and went quickly round a bend down the trail ahead of us. We weren't fast enough with the camera. We spend quite a bit of time in RMNP as we live nearby, so we're pretty familiar with the common animals. This wasn't anything we'd seen before. After studying a few pictures on the web when we got home, we came across this wolverine picture and agreed "that's it, no doubt."

My wife and I saw two wolverines today in RMNP, less than 1 mile up the Trail Ridge Road from the Estes Park entrance. I snapped a photo of one of them in the rain.
Based on their size, we are guessing they are immature wolverines. They were wet and confused while trying to cross the road. Luckily they made it across. We gave a copy of the photo to a ranger at the vistor center, and he seemed to be quite excited about the sighting.

My wife and I saw a wolverine today in Rocky Mountain National Park, about 1 mile up the Trail Ridge Road from the Estes Park national park entrance. I was able to snap a picture in the rain and low light. Our best guess is this an immature wolverine. There were two of them walking along the highway, looking rather wet and confused. Luckily they safely crossed the road. We gave a copy of the photo to a park ranger at the visitor's station. The ranger seemed to very interested in the sighting. I can post a picture to you, but I'm not sure how to post the photo. Let me know if you would like me to email it to you, or let me know how to post it.

Came across a wolverine today by the gate of Moraine park campground. Was walking up to the bathrooms and startled it when I came around from the side of the building (not more than 7ft away). It didn't run but just turned and went off the other direction which gave me a good amount of time to get a good look at it. Wish I had taken a pic with my phone but didn't think much of it until I spoke to a ranger and he said it sounded just like a wolverine. I knew it was not a badger and no doubt what i saw after checking pictures and video online. I did not notice a collar.

We saw a wolverine yesterday in Estes Park. We were driving along riverside past Turquoise Trail (a gravel road) and out of the corner of my eye saw what I thought could be a bear cub. Then looking at it as we came to a stop I started to think it was a dog, but it's legs were too stocky and face too small. It had a really shaggy dark brown coat and kind of froze along the side of the road in the weeds. I decided to call it a badger at the time because of the face but the coat color didn't seem right and it was a little bigger than I thought badgers should be. It's cool to know it was a wolverine!

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