It’s been more than a century, but scientists recently discovered the first reproductive wolverine and her two kits in Mount Rainier National Park.
And this is cause for joy. Says Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins, “It’s really, really exciting. It tells us something about the condition of the park— that when we have such large-ranging carnivores present on the landscape, that we’re doing a good job of managing our wilderness.”
You see, wolverines are rare in the United States, with less than 1,000 living in the lower 48 states. In fact, in Washington state alone, there are only about 20 of them, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
And the reason they’re so rare is presumably climate change, which is a threat to the species. According to Dr. Jocelyn Akins of the Cascades Carnivore Project, wolverines “are of particular conservation concern due to their unique evolutionary histories and their sensitivity to climate change.”
The largest members of the weasel family, wolverines weigh just under 45 pounds. They tend to live in mountainous areas, and despite their reputation, wolverines are no risk to humans and often flee when they’re spotted.
The National Park Service has set up cameras throughout the park as more and more sightings are reported, and they encourage visitors to help monitor the wolverines’ return by reporting sightings or photos of tracks to the Mount Rainier online wildlife observations database or directly to Cascades Wolverine Project.