PHOTOS: Denali National Park Rangers Capture Pics of Extremely ‘Rare’ Creature

by Lauren Boisvert

Rangers at Denali National Park in Alaska recently shared photos of a rare animal sighting they had in the park. On Saturday, the park posted two photos on Facebook that officials had taken of two rarely seen wolverines. These little guys are so slippery and elusive that even park rangers rarely, if ever, see them. But, they were spotted this weekend, and the rangers managed to snap a few photos before the critters disappeared again.

“A rare appearance by two wolverines quickly became the talk of the park this week,” Denali National Park posted on their Facebook page. “These critters spent part of their day peeking at visitors from a culvert along Denali Park Road. Since these animals are so rarely seen, some park staff had to brush up on their wolverine knowledge!”

Denali National Park Teaches Visitors About the Rare Wolverine

The post then let park visitors and Facebook users in on some top-notch wolverine knowledge. Apparently, wolverines are relatives of weasels, mink, and marten, which all belong to the Mustelidae family. Additionally, they are meat eaters, and scavenge for their food, eating just about any meat they can get their little hands on. Male and female wolverines mate for a few days in the summer, which is possibly why these two were out and about. Other than that, they are known for being solitary.

Wolverine populations in most of the United States and Canada are relatively low due to encroachment and deforestation of wilderness. Although, in Alaska, wolverine populations are relatively stable, according to the National Park. But, they are incredibly difficult to study due to their large territories. Wolverines don’t often stay in one place and roam long distances to claim large territories. According to Denali, in the park, their territories may range from 100 to 800 square kilometers, which converts to about 198,000 acres.

Why are Wolverines So Rare in the Lower 48?

Not considering thriving wolverine populations in Denali National Park, why is it that the animals are so rare in the Lower 48 states specifically? Wolverines live in cold, dry, high elevations, which is why Alaska is the perfect environment for them. But in the Lower 48, that’s places like Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Wolverine hunting in these parts ran rampant until the 1930s when hunting wolverines was outlawed due to their depleted numbers. Even now that hunting is illegal, wolverines can still die by being lured into traps set for other animals. Because they’re scavengers, they’re more likely to poke around in places they shouldn’t.

Additionally, because they’re solitary, wolverines are more likely to be killed due to human interaction. There’s no protection from a pack, and specifically, people on snowmobiles are likely to come upon a wolverine by accident. Human-made climate change also affects the wolverine. Since they rely on thick snow to burrow in and give birth, thinning snow in the mountains directly depletes their habitat and ability to raise their young.

Right now, there are only about 300 wolverines left in the Lower 48. While there are conservation efforts put into place in some states to save and replenish the population, their endangered status is still Least Concern.