A wolverine was spotted in California. Here's what happens next
He's thought to be a young creature roaming in search of a partner. Relatable!
Who is he? While he hasn't been given a formal name, the California wolverine is a creature of mystique and intrigue.
What's the big deal? You know that one friend who you never see because they're always busy? Imagine they just showed up to your party. But it's been 100 years, and your friend is a furry mammal in the California mountains, and they also can't speak English or go near people.
Here's what Gammons told us about the wolverine:
On whether there could be more than one:
As far as we know there's likely a single animal. Obviously, it's very hard to prove a negative. So it's possible that there could be more than one. But based on the rarity of the sightings over the last 100 years, the rarity of the confirmed sightings, how we know that wolverines have tremendous dispersal capabilities, and they can move many, many, many miles during a day, we suspect that there's just a single animal at this time. We assume that it's likely a male, but we don't even know that.
On how an animal can make a comeback like this:
It could be through natural processes, with animals dispersing from a different population where they currently exist and just coming on their own and colonizing with wolverines, and that happens with various species at different times.
Colorado may be contemplating a reintroduction program that would be the obvious other way, in that it could occur assisted by people. So basically capturing animals in a place where there's a harvestable surplus and bringing them in.
On next steps with the wolverine:
We're looking for scats. If we get a detection, we know where it's at. This is generally almost always going to be in snow conditions that make tracking a little bit easier.
So if we can track it, basically kind of get a hot lead on where it was last seen, [we can] mobilize some people to go out there and track it ... And then the other method is to set up bait sites where we're trying to lure the animal in to climb a tree, and grab a bait that we've set for it. And below the bait we'll set gun cleaning brushes, kind of like a bottle brush, and those are designed to just pull a hair or a handful of hairs off the animal.
And once we have the hair, the follicle in that hair can be sent off to a lab and they can run the genetics on that and answer questions such as, is it male? Is it female? What's the likely population of origin, by comparing the DNA to samples collected in those other areas. It's pretty low impact.
Want more on the environment? Listen to Consider This on why melting ice in Antartica is a big problem for coastal Texas.
So, what now?
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.