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Mount Rainier National Park Has Wolverines Return After More Than A Century

Many people have, and many more should take in the sight of Mount Rainier standing tall over Washington state. It's something to behold, with a peak that, on some days, stands above the clouds and can be seen from pretty far away. But, what about the sights one can take in when at the mountain and a bit lower than the peak? In this case, we're talking about wildlife...wildlife that has returned to Mount Rainier National Park after more than 100 years of being absent.

Though a rarity across the United States, scientists have discovered the first reproductive female wolverine and her two offspring in Mount Rainier National Park.

“It’s really, really exciting,” said Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “It tells us something about the condition of the park— that when we have such large-ranging carnivores present on the landscape that we’re doing a good job of managing our wilderness.”

As sightings have been confirmed in the adjacent area and suitable wilderness habitat in Mount Rainier National Park, experts believed that the animals could start to return to the park. In 2018, camera stations were set up to photograph and identify any wolverines that may happen by. The camera station design also makes it possible to show if a female is lactating, which was the case with this recently discovered wolverine.

The locations of the camera stations and the wolverine dens are not made public, however, there are still ways for park visitors to help monitor wolverine recovery. “Backcountry enthusiasts, skiers, snowshoes, and snowmobilers can help us monitor wolverines and contribute to studying their natural return to the Cascade ecosystem,” said Dr. Tara Chestnut, a park ecologist. “Wolverines are solitary animals and despite their reputation for aggressiveness in popular media, they pose no risk to park visitors. If you are lucky enough to see one in the wild, it will likely flee as soon as it notices you.”

"It is important for park visitors to learn how to recreate in the backcountry while minimizing disturbance to wolverines. Even low-impact recreation like backcountry skiing can disturb denning wolverines if visitors don’t have the tools to recognize wildlife signs. With support from Washington’s National Park Fund, the park developed a new carnivore tracking guide that visitors can download before recreating in their public lands. The guide will help backcountry recreationists develop an awareness of wolverines and be able to recognize their tracks."

"Park visitors can report any wildlife observations or photos of wolverine tracks to the Mount Rainier online wildlife observations database. Backcountry enthusiasts can also submit wolverine observations directly to Cascades Wolverine Project. “Reporting wildlife observations is very helpful to national park and other public land managers,” Chestnut said, “and if someone is lucky enough to get a photo of a wolverine or their tracks, we really want to know about it.” 
- National Park Service News Release

Photo: The wolverine mother and her two kits. - Credit: Mount Rainier National Park/Flickr

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