With only a handful of wolverine sightings in Utah since 1979, including an animal hit by a car and animal tracks, another elusive predator sighting was reported Thursday, this one in a West Layton neighborhood.
It's hard to say which recent sighting was more unlikely, the one when an animal was spotted and photographed on May 5 at the Great Salt Lake, or the one that trotted across a lawn and was captured by a doorbell camera Thursday, and then later spotted again by humans on an early morning walk. Wildlife officials would love anybody who sees one to call 801-476-2740 as quickly as possible, or even 911.
"I would say the two sightings this year are the best sightings we've ever had," Mark Hadley with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said. "It's way, way exciting for us."
Like the sighting in May, biologists on Thursday confirmed with video that the animal was indeed a rarely seen Utah wolverine, a carnivore that loves to scavenge carcasses but can be hunters when food is scarce. Hadley said there are no known attacks of a wolverine on humans but still urged anybody who sees the animal to maintain their distance and if safe, use their camera to take photos and video without approaching it.
DWR biologists think the same animal was spotted in both recent sightings. Officials said in May that they believed the Great Salt Lake animal was headed elsewhere, but didn't know it would end up in a West Layton neighborhood. Hadley also said video and photos seem to show a healthy animal that is just something of a rogue.
I would agree it's unusual behavior. It's amazing what wildlife will do. It's amazing the distances that all different kinds animals will wander."
More than just taking photos, Hadley hoped Utah residents would alert the DWR as soon as possible after the sighting. Utah scientists would love to capture the animal, fit it with a radio transmitter and relocate it to the high mountains to track and study it.
"We would learn so much more about this animal, but it's way easier said than done," he said. The ability to track a wolverine in Utah would give science a glimpse into their elusive habits and their range, especially in Utah.
CONFIRMED WOLVERINE SIGHTINGS IN UTAH
- 1979 — wolverine hit and killed on U.S. Highway 40, east of Vernal
- Feb. 2014 — wolverine captured in a photo at a bait station in the Uinta Mountains
- Dec., 2014 — wolverine tracks located near Dutch John
- June 29, 2015 — Female wolverine carcass located by UDOT after it was hit and killed by a vehicle approximately one mile east of Laketown, in Rich County
- May 5, 2021 — Wolverine spotted and filmed, walking far out of its usual habitat, at the Great Salt Lake
The animals are most frequently found in Canada, Alaska, Nordic European countries, western Russia and Siberia. They are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act but they are protected by Utah state law.
Hadley did suggest bringing pets indoors at night with such a powerful wild animal in the neighborhood. Wolverines have been known to attack a moose, though they prefer to find something already dead for food, according to Hadley.
If you see a wolverine, call 801-476-2740.