WILDLIFE

Wolverine captured in Utah and released back into wild

Mar 14, 2022, 1:50 PM | Updated: 4:22 pm
The wolverine was captured in Rich County....
The wolverine was released in the Uinta Mountains on public land. Photos courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

RANDOLPH, Utah — A wolverine spotted in Randolph, Utah was captured by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources last week. The DWR placed a GPS collar on it for tracking purposes, and released it in the Uinta Mountains.

DWR Northern Region Outreach Manager Mark Hadley said wolverines are “elusive and secretive” animals. He noted that including last week’s capture, there had only been eight confirmed sightings in Utah.

Northern Utah is part of the wolverine’s home range, according to Hadley. 

Wolverine capture

The DWR said the capture of the wolverine began Thursday morning when a sheepherder near Randolph spotted an animal attacking his sheep. The wolverine killed or injured 18 of the sheep. The animal ran west when the sheepherder got near.

Hadley said the sheepherder called the USDA’s Wildlife Services. The USDA was in the area of Rich County doing other work and was able to send a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft to search for the wolverine. It spotted the animal while flying over the area. Members of Wildlife Serviced then contacted the DWR.

The DWR said it sent biologists with two traps to the area. The sheepherder and personnel from Wildlife Services removed all of the dead sheep from the area.

A DWR biologist and a Utah Department of Agriculture trapper cut two hindquarters of a sheep placed them into two separate traps. They used the hindquarters to increase the chances of the wolverine entering the trap. 

“There was so much activity in the area that morning, I thought the wolverine would be long gone and we wouldn’t be able to catch it,” DWR Northern Region Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen said.

In the early morning of the next day, the private landowner and a sheepherder checked the traps, but only the hindquarters were in the trap. By mid-morning, a second sheepherder saw that one trap had its door down. The DWR said the wolverine inside the trap was the first caught by Utah biologists.

Measurements and tracking

The DWR said a biologist and a conservation officer from their division as well as two members of Wildlife Services took the traps and the animal to the DWR’s Ogden office. Biologists sedated the animal to take measurements, hair and blood samples, and check the animal’s teeth. The DWR said the biologists monitored the wolverine’s heart rate, temperature, and breathing throughout the tests. The DWR also said it used ice on the wolverine’s stomach and armpits to keep it cool. 

Biologists for the DWR determined the wolverine was a male between three and four years old. The animal weighed 28 pounds and measured 41 inches from its tail to the tip of its nose.

The DWR placed a collar on the wolverine’s neck before reversing the sedative’s effects.

Hadley said the GPS collar will allow the DWR to track the wolverine’s behaviors and patterns. Biologists will be able to track where the animal travels, the size of its home range, and its habitats throughout different times of the year. 

The DWR said it will use information gathered to manage wolverines in Utah; an area that’s at the very southern edge of the wolverine’s range in the U.S.

“We can start to learn a lot about wolverines here in the state that we wouldn’t be able to learn without having a collar on this animal because they’re so secretive,” said Hadley.

The DWR said it placed the wolverine back into the trap after reversing the sedative’s effects. It released the wolverine on public land on the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains on March 11.

“It’s challenging to manage an animal when it’s difficult to get information about that animal,” said Hadley. “We’re really excited because [the collar]’s going to teach us a lot about wolverines here in the state of Utah.”

Kate Davis contributed to the reporting of this article.

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Wolverine captured in Utah and released back into wild