Why Isn’t the Wolverine Better Protected in the Northern Rockies?

courtesy of New West
by Dennis Higman

Late last spring I had the rare privilege of seeing a wolverine in the wild while out riding on our ranch in the high mountain desert of southwest Idaho. It was one of an estimated 250-300 that still survive in the lower 48 states according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, mostly in the North Cascades of Washington State and Northern Rockies. Of course, I didn’t know any of this at the time. In fact, the only wolverine I’d ever heard of was the mascot for the University of Michigan.

What I did know was that my steady old Paint, Keith Richards, got very tense when he saw a large, brown furry animal cross our path about 25 yards away at the edge of a steep avalanche chute. It was like nothing I’d ever seen in 15 years up here at 7,200 feet. It was about the size of a small bear (or a big cub) but it didn’t move like a bear—more like a raccoon or badger but a lot faster. And move it did, with all deliberate speed, so I only got one quick look at its long bushy tail, short legs, narrow face and funny little ears before it disappeared.

I didn’t have a camera, but the image stayed with me until I got back to the house and looked it up. He wasn’t hard to find or identify. “Gulo gulo luscus”, the North American wolverine, largest member of the weasel family. I had no idea these magnificent creatures lived in Idaho but I’m no native son, so I asked a couple of friends and neighbors who are.

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