Wolverines have clawed their way back to Seattle’s Mount Rainer National Park after a more than 100-year hiatus.
The rare furry mammals were spotted in the park late last month, the National Park Service recently announced.
A female named Joni and her two offspring, called kits, were caught on cameras strategically stationed as part of a collaboration between the Cascades Carnivore Project and National Park Service.
Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins said the sightings were a good sign for the park ecosystem.
“It’s really, really exciting,” Jenkins said in a statement.
“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.”
The mini-bear-like beasts are actually the largest member of the weasel family.
They’re incredibly rare in the United States, with only 300-1000 individual wolverines estimated to be in the lower 48 states, according to the National Park Service.
Scientists installed cameras back in 2018 believing that wolverines had returned to the environment after several sightings were documented.
The researchers said they can confidently rely on the cameras to identify the creatures thanks to the animals’ unique white markings.
Wolverines are formidable predators, but despite their reputation, park officials said the animals are not aggressive and pose no harm to visitors.
They’ll likely run off in the rare chance they’re spotted in the wild.
The U.S has seen the number of wolverines dwindle over the years as climate change has threatened their habitats, the Seattle Times reported.
“Many species that live at high elevation in the Pacific Northwest, such as the wolverine, are of particular conservation concern due to their unique evolutionary histories and their sensitivity to climate change,” Dr. Jocelyn Akins, founder of the Cascades Carnivore Project, said in a statement.
“They serve as indicators of future changes that will eventually affect more tolerant species and, as such, make good models for conservation in a changing world.”
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