GREAT FALLS — In Montana and Wyoming, wolverines are most commonly found in sparsely populated areas near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
Despite that, there were two sightings caught on video this week.
The first was a father and daughter visiting Yellowstone from California on Saturday, March 5th.
The second happened in Fergus County on Wednesday, March 9th. Nick Nowak recorded the encounter near Tractor Supply in Lewistown.
Dave Hagengruber, the communication and education manager at Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks in Great Falls, says these sightings are extremely rare and almost unheard of.
Particularly in the case of the Lewistown wolverine, Dave can't recall another wolverine wandering into city limits as seen in the video.
He said, "What we saw in Lewistown was really unique and rare, taking everyone by surprise. A wolverine out on the prairie, much less a wolverine within city limits. Of all the predators we have in Montana — bears, mountain lions, etc. — wolverines are without a doubt the most rare."
There are likely less than a dozen wolverines in Yellowstone National Park, with Central Montana mountain ranges likely having just a handful of wolverines.
Dave noted, "They are very low density, although they cover a tremendous amount of territory — especially here in central Montana where we have those island mountain ranges like the Snowies, the Judiths, and the Highwoods. There may just be a handful of wolverines literally just a very few in each one of those and they sometimes cross from one to another."
Wolverines sometimes seen to resemble a small bear, but they are actually the largest member of the weasel family. From the Montana Field Guide:
The Wolverine is a bear-like mustelid with massive limbs and long, dense, dark brown pelage, paler on the head, with two broad yellowish stripes extending from the shoulders and joining on the rump. Variable white or yellowish markings are often present on the throat and chest. The tail is bushy. The feet are relatively large (6.5 to 11.3 centimeters total length) with robust claws. Wolverines weigh between 7 and 32 kilograms and range from 0.9 to 1.1 meters in length.
FWP says that wolverines are surprisingly powerul for their size and can be dangerous. If you see one, do not get closer to take a photo. Call FWP or the nearest law enforcement agency.
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