This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A wolverine wound up dead on a northern Utah highway Wednesday, providing further evidence that the rare and elusive predator could be returning to Utah's mountain ranges.
"It made its way here on its own. It's amazing to see the diversity of wildlife we have in Utah expand even more. Particularly, such a charismatic and mythical species as the wolverine," said Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, in a news release.
A Utah Department of Transportation worker reported the young female on State Route 30, about a mile west of Laketown off Bear Lake's south shore the first wolverine carcass found in Utah in 37 years. The previous one was run over on U.S. Highway 40 east of Vernal.
Unconfirmed sightings of wolverines in Utah have abounded in recent years, with the most recent confirmed sighting occurring in February 2014 when a wolverine triggered a camera at a bait station in the Uinta Mountains.
"We don't know how many wolverines live in Utah," said DWR mammals coordinator Leslie McFarlane, "or if they're living here at all. They're elusive, have a wide distribution range and can travel long distances. A wolverine's territory can be as large as 350 square miles. They tend to move large distances within that territory."
Trapping and habitat loss, and now a warming climate, have reduced wolverine numbers. Biologists believe just 250 to 300 wolverines inhabit the Northern Rockies, although federal wildlife officials have declined to list it for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Still, wolverines are protected under Utah law, though it is not clear any populations exist.
"To prove that wolverines are established in Utah, we would have to have multiple sightings over a short period of time and in one particular area," McFarlane said.
Although it is presumed a vehicle killed the animal, officials are performing a necropsy to learn more about the animal and confirm the cause of death.