While National Park Service officials have been talking with Colorado officials about possibly collaborating on a wolverine recovery program in the Centennial State, wolverines don't seem to be waiting around for any assistance.
Dave Pinkernell captured the accompanying picture this past Tuesday along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park about 1 mile inside the Estes Park entrance.
"I was able to snap a picture in the rain and low light. Our best guess is this an immature wolverine," said Mr. Pinkernell, who along with his wife, Dr. Carrie Burhenn, have been vacationing in the park from Washougal, Washington. "There were two of them walking along the highway, looking rather wet and confused. Luckily they safely crossed the road."
Last summer a wildlife photographer, Ray Rafitti, captured a shot of a wolverine in the park.
"It was the first documented wolverine in the park since it was established in 1915," Rocky Mountain spokeswoman Kyle Patterson recalled Thursday. "While we continue to receive reports of wolverines (sometimes with photos) many turn out to be badgers or marmots. Sometimes when something like that has been in the news (like wolves) our number of reports increases. The rare report, where a wolverine sighting seems likely, appears to occur in our vast alpine/near-alpine areas."
Where that particular wolverine came from is not a mystery. Earlier in 2009 it was radio-collared for research purposes (the Greater Yellowstone Wolverine Program) in the Yellowstone ecosystem. 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.
That desire for solitude makes this summer's sightings more than a little unusual. A number of Traveler readers have mentioned sightings similar to the one by Mr. Pinkernell and Dr. Burhenn: One reported spotting a wolverine-looking creature in Estes Park, another spotted one on Flattop Mountain in the park, another by the gate of the Moraine campground, and yet another reported seeing an animal that looked like a wolverine while heading down the Bowen Gulch Trail in the Never Summer Wilderness just west of the national park.