SYRACUSE — James Shook said he's always wanted to see a wolverine out in the wild from the time he was 6 years old.
It just so happens that he finally did it in an extremely unusual location. Through photos and video that Shook and his friend, Kyle Mays, took, Utah wildlife biologists confirmed Wednesday that the two stumbled across a "very rare" sighting of a wolverine in the Beehive State this week.
It's the first confirmed sighting of a wolverine since June 2016, when a wolverine carcass was located by the Utah Department of Transportation near Bear Lake in Rich County.
"It's pretty incredible for me to able to have (seen one)," Shook told KSL TV. "It's a bucket list item gone now."
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources received the report of a wolverine sighting by the Bridger Bay Campground in the northwest end of Antelope Island Tuesday. State biologists used Shook's photos and Mays' video to confirm the sighting.
A 35-second video shows a wolverine running across an open land during broad daylight. Shook said the creature saw the two men and began to run away.
He whispered "no way" as snapped photos of the animal running.
Biologists ventured out to the island Wednesday morning but were unable to find the wolverine or its tracks, division officials added.
.@UtahDWR biologists feel confident that the footage showing an animal running on Antelope Island State Park is of a rare wolverine sighting. This is one of only about 5 confirmed sightings in Utah since the 1970s— Faith Heaton Jolley (@FaithHJolley) May 5, 2021
Video credit: Kyle Mays https://t.co/H0WB4LBKZBpic.twitter.com/XtS95T5xtN
Adam Brewerton, a wildlife conservation biologist for the DWR, said wolverines are rare in Utah and typically found in higher-elevated areas. There's no exact count of the species in Utah since they are rather elusive and difficult to track, especially since a wolverine can have a home range that covers 350 square miles.
The division does receive reports of sightings from time to time but most of those sightings come from the High Uintas.
Seeing a wolverine during the day, like Shook and Mays did Tuesday, is even rarer since they usually roam around at night.
"Wolverines are very rare to see because they are largely nocturnal, and they travel quickly, typically not staying in one area long enough to be found or seen," Brewerton said in a statement. "We believe this wolverine sighted on Antelope Island is just passing through since Antelope Island does not have suitable habitat."
The report this week was just the fifth confirmed sighting and second captured on camera since 1979.
Said Brewerton: "It is always exciting to hear of wolverine sightings in the state and especially when we have video evidence."
Contributing: Mike Anderson, KSL TV