For the first time in more than 100 years, wolverines have returned to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, the National Park Service announced Thursday.
The National Park Service and scientists with the conservation organization Cascades Carnivore Project spotted the female wolverine and her two offspring, also called kits.
“It’s really, really exciting,” Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins said.
“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," Jenkins said.
Wolverines Return to Mount Rainier National Park After More Than 100 Years, News Release: https://t.co/qmCkTDsFAU
Video of three wolverines at the end of a snowfield then running through a meadow into a forest. Credit: Travis Harris -kl pic.twitter.com/ALwJoAOmTG
— MountRainierNPS (@MountRainierNPS) August 20, 2020
Wolverines are rare in the U.S. with less than 1,000 living in the lower 48 states, officials said. In Washington state, there are only about 20, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Scientists say climate change is presumably a threat to the species.
Wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family and weigh about 44 pounds. And they tend to live in mountainous areas.
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But a recent sighting in the state caught scientists off guard. During Memorial Day weekend, a wolverine was spotted at a Pacific County beach, Q13 FOX reported.
"This is way outside the beaten path for the wolverines," Jeff Lewis, a biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told CNN. "It's not near the habitats they are usually at."
We have discovered the first reproductive female wolverine and her two kits at Mount Rainier National Park in over one hundred years, in collaboration with National Park Service scientists. Photo 1: Wolverine mama, Joni, and her kits. Photo 2: Joni displaying her giant paws at one of our monitoring stations. #conservation #gulogulo #nps #mountrainiernationalpark #nature
A post shared by Cascades Carnivore Project (@cascadescarnivore) on Aug 20, 2020 at 12:04pm PDT
The National Park Service says they have set up cameras throughout the park as more sightings have been reported throughout the state.
Officials are asking the public to report any wildlife observations or wolverine photos to the park's database or to the Cascade Wolverine Project's website to help scientists study wolverines' return to the Cascade ecosystem.
"Wolverines are solitary animals and despite their reputation for aggressiveness in popular media, they pose no risk to park visitors," National Park Service ecologist Dr. Tara Chestnut said.
"If you are lucky enough to see one in the wild, it will likely flee as soon as it notices you."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wolverines return to Mount Rainier for first time in over 100 years