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SUMMIT COUNTY — For the first time in 30 years, a wolverine was spotted in Utah.
A camera set up in the Uinta Mountains caught 27 images of the wolverine in February, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced Wednesday. The trail camera was installed in January and retrieved during the spring.
The images are the first time a wolverine has been caught on camera in Utah, according to the DWR. The last confirmed time a wolverine was found in Utah was in 1979 when a wolverine carcass was located.
A total of four motion-sensing cameras were installed to monitor four bait stations along the north slope of the Uinta Mountains with the goal of capturing images of “elusive” wildlife, the DWR said. The station of the camera that snapped pictures of the wolverine was baited with deer killed by cars.
A red fox took the bait, but two days later a wolverine was drawn to the area by the lingering scent of carcasses, officials said. The wolverine stayed on camera for about five minutes on Feb. 18.
Wolverines are rare in Utah, but have historically been found in high mountain areas, according to mammals conservation coordinator Kim Hersey. There have been multiple unconfirmed reports of wolverine sightings in recent years.
It’s possible the wolverine made a trek to Wyoming after appearing in Utah — a trail camera 20 miles from Evanston caught a wolverine on camera in April.
“We’d like to determine if the wolverine in Wyoming is the same animal in the Utah images,” regional sensitive species biologist Adam Brewerton said in a statement. “If it is, we can determine a time frame when the animal or animals may have been in the area. We can also determine if the wolverine was wandering through the area or if it’s a resident animal that’s making its home here.”
Wolverines are known to travel long distances, Hersey said.
“They’ll occupy territories as large as 350 square miles,” she said in a statement. “In 2009, a young male wolverine was documented traveling over 500 miles from Grand Teton National Park to Colorado.”
There are currently about 250 to 300 wolverines living in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, plus the North Cascades in Washington, according to the DWR. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed the addition of the wolverine to the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.