Young wolverine travels to Colorado after 500 mile hike
The Denver Post
A wolverine has traveled more than 500 miles from Grand Teton National Park into Colorado, the first known incidence of a wolverine in Colorado since 1919, wildlife officials said today.
The wolverine is one of the group collared by the Greater Yellowstone Wolverine Program, a partnership of the Wildlife Conservation Society, state game departments in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.
The wolverine, a young male labeled M56, spent April and May traveling 500 miles south from Grand Teton National Park and successfully crossed numerous highways including Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming to reach Colorado.
The wolverine, which was collared in December, is now in northern Colorado where the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Wildlife Conservation Society are jointly tracking M56.
Bob Inman, the Ennis, Montana-based director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Yellowstone Wolverine Program, said that wolverines were virtually wiped out in the lower 48 states by 1930. They were killed by unregulated trapping and poison-baited gut piles, he said.
There has been a very slow recovery with approximately 250 believed to be living in the lower 48, said Innman.
Currently in the Grand Teton National Park there are about 10 wolverines, said Inman. In a slightly broader area, stretching from Bozeman, Montana to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the program has collared 14 wolverines.
Wolverines are known as extremely tough critters, which usually weigh about 24 to 40 pounds. Most of the wolverines in the Greater Yellowstone program weigh between 20 and 30 pounds.
Inman said that the wolverines pose virtually no threat to livestock such as cattle and sheep because of their small numbers, the fact they are primarily scavengers and because they remain year-round at high-altitude above timberline, feeding primarily off marmots and the bodies of dead animals such as elk, moose or mountain goats.
Their habitat in Colorado would be about 10,500 feet or higher, an area where M56 is currently spending his time.
Adults tend to inhabit areas above timberline where there are snow-covered avalanche chutes and freezing temperatures much of the year. During the winter, their huge feet act as snowshoes that allow them to stay at the high altitudes, said Inman.
In his nine years in the program, Inman said he knew of only one incident where a wolverine attacked livestock. A wolverine in Wyoming attacked and killed a couple of sheep.
He said he has never heard of wolverines, known as being solitary animals, attacking a human.
“One wolverine in Colorado is not capable of doing damage” to livestock,” said Inman. “Livestock are not a big food item.”
Even though adult wolverines average about 30 pounds, a home range of an adult can be as much as 500 square miles.
Inman said that although there have been some reports of wolverines in Colorado over the years, none of those reports have been verified. He said M56 is the first documented record of a wolverine in Colorado since 1919.
Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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