Wolverine Sightings Growing in Rocky Mountain National Park

This animal, which looks very much like a wolverine, was photographed by Dave Pinkernell and his wife, Dr. Carrie Burhenn, earlier this week along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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.

Comments

Check out the claws on this guy!

I saw what looked to be a wolverine while hiking in Lory State Park outside of Fort Collins last August. I reported it to the Ranger's. Their 'mammal expert' told me that I was mistaken because wolverine's had not been seen in Colorado since the 60's .. they suggested I saw a PIne Martin. I know what Pine Martins look like and this wasn't one. Glad to see the documentation! I have a friend who tour guides in the San Juans, he also saw a Wolverine and was told by the Forest Service that he was mistaken. Hmmmm... maybe they are more widespread in Colorado than the 'experts' think or choose to believe! Really appreciate the post.

That's a badger - a very muddy, 'just got done digging up some rodent' badger.............note the very long pigeon-toed claws - note the short legs.

Sorry, but this is not a wolverine. It is a very wet young badger. Keep looking though and you might get lucky like Mr. Rafitti. What he saw and photographed was indeed a wolverine.

Nice. Seems like I wouldn't want to be too close to one. He looks like he is hungry or angry.

BADGER!!!! sorry, keep looking

This does look like a muddy badger. One of the photos I captured last summer can be found on my site (www.rayrafiti.com--->galleries--->small mammals).

I agree, this is a very muddy badger. The claws are too long and thick, the head a little too broad, and the ears a little off to fit a wolverine. I had to study it for a bit with the mud covering all the easy markings, but the claws are what really tipped me off. Wolverines have semi-retractable claws and are hooked like a cat's, not long and knife-like like a badger's.

Still a cool, unique picture though!

I saw a wolverine up on Fox mountain by South Fork in October 1995, about 2/3rds of the way up to the end of the road. It was scootin across the road fairly quick into a rock slide near the road where a bunch of marmots hang out. DOW denied it just like the grey wolf sighting up by millions reservoir 3 years later. Seems if they dont get a ' visual' they think it doesnt exist. The same year as the wolf sighting we saw a lynx at millions also, again denied by DOW. I know they cant be everywhere, but give us who have been outdoors all our lives some credit. They are NOT the only one's who can identify wildlife!