RICH COUNTY, Utah — For the first time ever, Utah biologists were able to capture a wolverine in the wild after it was spotted in Rich County.
The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources announced the incredible event Monday, saying that not only had the wolverine been captured, but that it had also been fitted with a GPS device to provide officials with valuable data.
According to the DWR, there have been only eight confirmed wolverine sightings in Utah since 1979.
A USDA-Wildlife Services aircraft in the area noticed an animal feeding on a dead sheep. As they flew closer, they were able to confirm the animal was a wolverine.
The dead sheep was one of 18 the wolverine had killed or wounded in the area that morning.
A plan was put in place to capture the wolverine, with the sheepherder and DWR personnel removing all the dead sheep and placing parts in each of two barrel traps.
“There was so much activity in the area that morning, I thought the wolverine would be long gone and we wouldn’t be able to catch it,” said Jim Christensen with the DWR.
The next morning, only the dead sheep were found in the traps and the wolverine had yet to be spotted. However, later in the day, a second sheepherder noticed a door on one of the traps was down, and inside was the first wolverine ever captured by Utah biologists.
The wolverine was brought to the DWR office in Ogden where it was sedated and had a number of tests performed and was later determined to be a male between 3-4 years old. Biologists then attached a GPS collar around the animal's neck to track it once it was released.
“The animal had good, sharp teeth,” Christensen said. “It was in really good condition.”
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Officials then took the wolverine to the North Slope of the Unita Mountains and released it on public land.
“Having a collar on this wolverine will teach us things about wolverines in Utah that would be impossible to learn any other way,” Christensen said. “Four different wolverine sightings were confirmed in Utah in 2021. Were we seeing the same animal or different animals? Having a collar on this animal will help us solve that riddle.”