Wolverine: It’s a boy. And he’s not from around here
April 3, 2008
Preliminary DNA results are in for the wolverine recently spotted near Truckee, and it looks like he’s a long way from home.
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.
“We’ve made some important exclusions. We’ve excluded the Cascade Range in Washington as an origin, we’ve excluded it from the last known population in California, and we have a gender ” male, which is the dispersal sex in mammals,” said Bill Zielinski, research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station.
The animal comes from a genetic group that ranges from Alaska, Canada and down through the Rocky Mountains, Zielinski said, and being a male means it could have come here on its own.
But the nearest known habitat for that genetic group would be the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho ” 600 miles away, said Roland Giller, a spokesman for the Forest Service.
“Wolverine’s home range can cover 500 square miles, but in terms of linear miles, it seems the farthest documented has been 230 miles,” Giller said.
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While some have speculated that the wolverine is a native, part of a previously unknown northern Sierra group, Zielinski said that would be extremely unlikely.
“To believe that a group would be overlooked by trappers in a place like Truckee would be hard to believe,” Zielinski said.
He said Wolverines were trapped in California right up until they disappeared from the state in the 1920s.
If the wolverine didn’t walk here, it could have been released from captivity, he said.
“That would be very difficult to exclude, it may not be within the realm of science,” Zielinski said.
Flying over Tahoe National Forest, researchers have also determined the wolverine isn’t one of the animals tagged with a radio transceiver in Yellowstone National Park, said Tina Mark, a wildlife biologist for Tahoe National Forest in a previous interview.
Detective work will continue for at least the next three weeks in the national forest, Giller said, and more specific genetic results are expected within a week.