Truckee wolverine results still pending | SierraSun.com

Truckee wolverine results still pending

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
AP Photo/Glacier National Park, Jeff CopelandThis undated photo shows a wolverine in Glacier National Park in Montana, taken by biologist Jeff Copeland. Federal officials say wolverines do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, despite lingering concerns that populations of the rarely seen member of the weasel family could be imperiled, Monday, March 10, 2008.
AP | THE MISSOULIAN

Genetic testing on Truckee’s recent wolverine visitor is still awaiting review, but experts say not to expect any major revelations in where he came from or where he went.

The wolverine, long thought to have been driven out of the Sierra Nevada, was first caught on a remote camera by an Oregon State University graduate student on Feb. 28. That first photograph spurred additional detective work, which turned up more photos, hair and scat, which were sent to a laboratory for DNA testing.

Initial conclusions proved the wolverine wasn’t related to the thought-to-be-extinct California population, nor the known population in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington, but found that the animal was a male of the species related to weasels, badgers, and skunks.

That left a genetic group from Alaska, Canada, and the Rocky Mountains, with the closest population in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, 600 miles away, said Roland Giller, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in a previous interview.

With no new evidence to draw on the final details are awaiting review before being published, which could take six to nine months, said Bill Zielinski, research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station.

“The story won’t change too appreciably,” he said. “Nobody has seen anything since the end of March so we don’t have any idea where he went or if he’s still alive.”

The four points of contact with the wolverine didn’t suggest any direction, Zielinski said.

A recent article by Forest Service researchers Kevin McKelvey, Keith Aubry and Michael Schwartz, warned against the use of anecdotal evidence of rare species, as reports of wolverine sightings in the area could paint a false picture.

“That’s one of the reasons that this discovery made such a big splash ” it was the first independently verifiable evidence we’ve had in California for almost a century,” Zielinski said.

Without that solid evidence, anecdotal accounts from residents can create an overly-optimistic view of a rare species habitat, Zielinski said.