Rare wolverine sighting in Layton may be same animal spotted in May

A wolverine runs across the front yard of a home in Layton on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials say it may be the same wolverine that was spotted in Davis County earlier this year.

A wolverine runs across the front yard of a home in Layton on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials say it may be the same wolverine that was spotted in Davis County earlier this year. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

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LAYTON — Talk about an encore.

State wildlife officials say a Utah wolverine caught on camera running near a west Layton home before it was spotted again on a nearby trail Thursday morning may be the same wolverine that was seen near Antelope Island on May 4.

Either way, the incident may just be the best documentation of wolverines in state history, said Mark Hadley, the northern Utah outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

"We've been out looking for them for many, many, many years using trail cameras and things and this is the best sighting we've had so far," he said. "It's really rare. You just don't see them in the state of Utah very often."

The wolverine was first caught on a Layton home's doorbell surveillance camera Thursday morning. The 7-second video, posted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, shows a wolverine scampering across the front yard of the home shortly before 6:30 a.m.

Sandi Sabin happened to be walking on a nearby paved trail when the creature came running on by shortly after that. She was able to capture photos and a short video of the wolverine as it ran into another neighborhood near the trail and into the unknown.

"It kept running back and forth not sure where to go," Sabin told KSL TV, standing in the spot she encountered the animal. "That's when it decided to just run (toward the neighborhood) and I got the video going. It ran all across this dead grass here and then kind of went through the barricades there and over onto the road."

Sabin reported the encounter to DWR. State biologists confirmed that it was a wolverine through the photos and videos captured Thursday but were unable to locate the animal.

The sightings came nearly two months after the Antelope Island sighting. In that case, James Shook and Kyle Mays were out recreating when they saw a creature, determined to be a wolverine, running across the dried land.

Given the proximity of the two cases, relatively short timespan and the dried lakebed between the locations, state wildlife biologists believe it's likely that the wolverine spotted Thursday is the same from the May 4 sighting.

"We're pretty certain, we're pretty confident that this is the same wolverine," Hadley said. "Plus, it's really unusual to see a wolverine in an area outside of a high-elevation forested area, so our biologists are pretty certain that this is one and the same. ... I don't know what it's doing. It appears it's just hanging out in that area out in west Davis County."

While it is the second confirmed sighting of 2021, confirmed wolverine documentations remain incredibly rare. Even if it is the same wolverine from May, the Thursday sightings are just the sixth confirmed wolverine sighting in the state since the first confirmed sighting in 1979. It's the third caught on film.

It certainly caught Sabin by surprise.

"To see it right here in the middle of Layton on a bike path was definitely something I never thought I would see," she said.

A handful of Layton residents spent Thursday evening looking for the wolverine. Hadley said there aren't any known wolverine-human attacks on record in Utah but state biologists recommend that anyone who comes across a wolverine — perhaps even this wolverine in Davis County — should give it space. They also want people who encounter one to contact the division so they can locate it.

In this case, state wildlife biologists would like to capture the creature and place a GPS collar on it so they can study its travel patterns and learn more about wolverine habits in Utah after they release it in a remote, high-elevation area. That's information they still don't really have due to the species' elusiveness.

If anyone comes across the Davis County wolverine, they're encouraged to call the division's Ogden office at 801-476-2740. Hadley said that the office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In any sighting outside of those times, he urges people to call their local nonemergency dispatch so dispatch can relay the call to conservation officers.

Contributing: Andrew Adams, KSL TV


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