One of the rarest animals to make its home in the lower 48 states has been captured on video in Yellowstone National Park.
Grainy trail footage from December captured footage of a wolverine making its way through a snowy field in the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park. The video was posted on the Yellowstone Facebook page.
Only seven wolverines have been documented to be in the park, all between 2006 to 2009. This is the first one captured on video since remote trail cameras were installed in 2014.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW), there are only about 300 wolverines (PDF) living in the lower 48 states. Most can be found in the North Cascades in Washington, and the Northern Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon.
Contrary to pop culture, wolverines do not look anything like Hugh Jackman.
Although they resemble a bear, wolverines are actually a member of the weasel family. Males weigh between 22 and 40 pounds, while females are smaller at 16 to 29 pounds. They sport a bushy tail, short legs, rounded head, and short, rounded ears. Each foot has five toes with curved claws used for digging and climbing.
In 2013, the USFW considered listing wolverines as a threatened species. But research showed despite the small number, the population appears to be fairly stable and doesn’t meet the criteria for being labeled threatened. The USFW withdrew its listing proposal last October.
“In the time since our original proposal, the science on wolverine has been greatly advanced thanks to the work of state wildlife agencies and researchers in the U.S. and around the world,” Noreen Walsh, USFW regional director, said in a statement.
The rarity of seeing a wolverine is not something overlooked by the National Park Service. Visitors to Yellowstone who come across one are encouraged to keep a safe distance, but park rangers would love any photos or videos you may capture, as well as your location.
Editor's Note: Trying to spot the wolverine? Here are the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park. Be safe, and good luck!