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Woodsman 03-10-2010 09:00 AM

Lookie Here
 
Quite A Surprise!

Lone, lovelorn wolverine baffles scientists

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A lone wolverine discovered in California almost 90 years after the species supposedly went extinct here is apparently searching for a mate that he might never find.

The muscular carnivore with dark fur and a telltale almond-colored stripe was first photographed in 2008 roaming the Tahoe National Forest.

The finding caused a sensation among wildlife experts, but nobody has yet figured out how the wolverine found its way to the Sierra - his nearest relative is thought to be two states away.

Hair samples and scat have been picked through by scientists, who say the wolverine is a male that came from Idaho, probably across the Sawtooth and Cascade ranges, a trek of at least 800 miles.

"I wish we had the answers," said Amanda Shufelberger, a wildlife biologist for Sierra Pacific Industries, which has used a baited remote camera to photograph the animal several times over the past few weeks.

Girlfriend wanted

Shufelberger calls the wolverine Buddy. A better name might be Randy. The peripatetic predator is apparently looking for action 20 miles northwest of Truckee. Photographs taken on Jan. 22 and a video montage on the timber company's Web site show him trying to impress other wolverines - which apparently aren't around - with masculine aromas.

"He marks his territory a lot," Shufelberger said. "It's breeding season, so he's probably feeling lonely right now and searching for a female. It is sad."

Genetic testing of hair found in the same area in 2009 confirmed that the bowlegged beast is the same wolverine from two years ago.

Wildlife biologists thought wolverines had been wiped out in California more than eight decades ago by the fur trade. The species had not been seen in the state since 1922, when the last California wolverine was skinned.

Initial speculation was that the randy Tahoe denizen was a descendant of native California wolverines, but the genetic material collected at the food traps did not match the DNA taken from the skulls and skins of California wolverines killed between 1891 and 1922.
Relatives in Rockies

Turns out the libidinous loner is related to wolverines in the northern Rocky Mountains, particularly Idaho's Sawtooth Range, according to the U.S. Forest Service's genetics laboratory at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont. That's 600 miles as the crow flies, but a great deal more on four feet.

The wolverine, known scientifically as Gulo gulo, is the largest member of the weasel family, with adults weighing as much as 45 pounds. The males are known to travel great distances, keeping home ranges of up to 350 square miles. Studies in Montana have documented wolverines traveling 19 miles a day, and a wolverine in Norway once moseyed 83 miles in a day, ecologists said.

Still, no wolverine has ever been known to waddle over the Rockies, through the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon, across the Cascade Range through Lassen National Forest and into Tahoe, as this one is suspected of doing.

"He may have been looking for a female and not hit one and then just stopped in the Sierra because a lot of food was being placed out on these research studies," said Keith Slauson, a U.S. Forest Service ecologist. "He could have done it, but it is hard to tell because their ranges are so expansive that we just don't have a lot of research on them out here in the West."

There are problems with the theory. Trekking across snow-covered peaks is one thing, but the Idaho-to-California crossing requires a long slog through sagebrush-covered high-elevation desert, habitat unknown to wolverines.

Alternative theories

The other possibilities are not much better. The burly beast could have been kidnapped from Idaho and released in California, not an easy task given that wolverines are immensely strong for their size and have been known to defend scavenged meat against much larger predators, including bears.

"Honestly, I am split down the middle on it," Shufelberger said. "Both are far-fetched, but both are feasible."

Some theorists suggest that Idaho wolverines might have migrated centuries ago and lived undetected in California until now. They are, after all, loners who stake out remote territory, avoid people and feast on insects, berries, small animals and carrion.

Which points out another wild departure from the norm for this wolverine, Shufelberger said.

"The area that he's at is a very high-snowmobile-usage area, one of the highest in the Tahoe National Forest," Shufelberger said. "It surprises me that he is hanging out there. There are snowmobile tracks everywhere."

Nobody has yet figured out where the wolverine goes in the summer, and he has yet to be spotted in person. Recent pictures have shown the wolverine digging holes to cache food, an indication that he has plenty to eat.

"I always have my eyes open, but his sense of smell is excellent, and he knows I'm coming before I'm close," Shufelberger said. "I do feel sorry for him. People always ask when is he going to get a mate. Probably no time soon. These are threatened species, so it would take a lot to get another one moved in. The best we can do right now is learn as much as we can from him. "

E-mail Peter Fimrite at pfimrite@sfchronicle.com.

Picture at Link

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...MNPJ1CATHU.DTL


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looncry 03-10-2010 09:58 AM

Woodsman:whatever the fate of the lone wolverine,he seems to have adjusted to single life.
I read the article and tend to think he was ''kidnapped'' from another area and ,perhaps let loose in California.
He is famous now,and will get the respect he deserves! Or,not.the local zoo might end up being his home. Looncry

Seeker 03-10-2010 08:20 PM

NPR ran a piece about that today on All Things Considered.

(now someone's got to do a video about it all being a gov't plot!):rolling:

Hobbitling 03-10-2010 10:40 PM

It could have been trapped as a juvenile, when he would be easier to handle. I'm sure there are people who would pay top dollar for a pet wolverine.

But who knows. I think they're perfectly capable of traveling 800 miles. They can probably cover 10-miles a day at least. Probably a lot more if they wanted. I sure wish they'd wander out this way.

Woodsman 03-17-2010 03:03 AM

I seriously doubt it was ever captive, but that's just me.

Anyway, the Only Wolverine in Michigan Died. The only known wolverine, anyway.

Only Michigan Wolverine Found Dead
Hikers Found Wolverine Dead In Ditch

POSTED: Monday, March 15, 2010
UPDATED: 2:08 pm EDT March 15,2010

SANILAC COUNTY, Mich. -- Michigan's only known wolverine was found dead Saturday in Sanilac County, near where it was first spotted in 2004.

A pair of hikers found the female wolverine in a ditch near a beaver dam in the Minden City State Game Area.

A Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment said it appeared to have died of natural causes, but a necropsy will be performed at a DNRE lab at Michigan University.

The Department has said it plans to eventually mount the animal for display in the Bay City State Game Area.

A group of coyote hunters initially spotted the animal in Ubly, about 90 miles north of Detroit in February 2004 -- nearly 200 years after the species was last seen in the state that uses the small but ferocious animal as its unofficial nickname.

The wolverine, a member of the weasel family that grows to about 25 pounds but is fierce enough to fight off bears and wolves, once ranged across the northern and western United States. It is now limited mostly to northern Canada, Idaho and Alaska, with sightings in a few other states, but its last confirmed sightings in Michigan were by fur traders in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/22844519/detail.html

Eastern Puma 03-17-2010 10:02 AM

Why don't officials provide him with a mate?

At the Carnivores 2009 conference in Denver last November, videos of two wolverines that were raised in captivity were shown. They will be incorporated into an upcoming PBS program on videos. They were beguiling. Hope pet wolverines don't become the next rage for pets!

gulo 03-17-2010 06:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Eastern Puma (Post 142187)
Hope pet wolverines don't become the next rage for pets!

It's not too bad a life. Roof over my head, three squares, plenty of time to hassle squirrels and chipmunks at the feeder, and deer in the woodlot across the street, doing my best to mimic some top-down ecology dynamics around here. Boy, does it need it. But no wolverettes.

Keeping an eye on a cute fisher up the watershed a bit...


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