A wolverine was spotted multiple times around the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains in May, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports. This is just the second known wolverine to be confirmed in the state since the 1920s. CDFW classified wolverines as threatened in 1971.
Two of the recent sightings happened in Inyo National Forest and a third happened in Yosemite National Park. The forest and park border each other in the eastern part of the state amid a long chain of public lands covering the Sierra Nevada range. CDFW believes the various sightings are of a single wolverine, since they can travel long distances in short periods of time, according to CDFW environmental scientist Daniel Gammons.
The last time a wolverine showed up in California was in Tahoe National Forest near Truckee in 2008. Confirmed sightings of that wolverine piled up over the decade that followed. Since wolverines don’t often live past 12 or 13 years of age, CDFW believes the more recent sightings are of a different individual.
These sightings also come two months after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported its first confirmed wolverine sightings outside of the northeastern Wallowa Mountains in 30 years. (ODFW is aware of one solitary wolverine living in the Wallowas and hypothesized this was a different animal, although they couldn’t confirm this theory.) In a similar fashion, multiple people saw what is thought to be the same wolverine over a few days. First, two fishermen snapped photos of the mesocarnivore running along the banks of the Columbia River near Portland. Three days later, it was spotted again near the town of Damascus. ODFW also classifies wolverines as a threatened species.
Wolverines need large swaths of high-elevation alpine habitat to thrive. The solitary critters are extremely territorial, and it is rare to see multiple wolverines living in close proximity to each other. Most North American wolverines live in Canada and Alaska, and while they aren’t currently on the endangered species list, they were proposed for listing in November 2022.
If you want to see one in action, check out this video of a wolverine ripping up what looks like a deer neck in front of a camera trap in the Wallowa Mountains in 2012: