Rarest Animal in Yellowstone? Answering 4 Yellowstone Wolverine Questions | Big Horn Basin Media

Rarest Animal in Yellowstone? Answering 4 Yellowstone Wolverine Questions

Written by on May 13, 2023

The Yellowstone Wolverine Could Be the Least Common Animal in Yellowstone National Park

Millions of people visit Yellowstone National Park each year hoping to take in the incredible sights and sounds of the world’s first national park.

Many bring cameras and spotting scopes, hoping to glimpse stunning wildlife. From bison and elk to moose, grizzly bears, wolves, and more, Yellowstone is home to an incredible variety of distinctive species.

But one of these species is almost never seen inside the park. Though it has quite a reputation — and even a superhero named after it — the wolverine is extremely elusive. It’s so rare, in fact, that hardly any visitors have seen a Yellowstone wolverine.

Why are these creatures so rare? Let’s get to know the Yellowstone wolverine and understand why they’re almost never photographed.

What Are Wolverines Known For?

Wolverines aren’t big, but they’re extremely capable carnivores. While wolves take on larger prey in packs, leveraging strength in numbers, wolverines are solitary and fight their own battles.

However, due to their ferocity and disproportionate strength, wolverines can take down much larger prey. It’s this power that gives the wolverine a reputation as a vicious fighter and an animal not to be crossed.

With these details in mind, you might be surprised to learn that wolverines actually belong to the weasel family. They range from 38-47 inches in length, and typically weigh between 13 and 31 pounds.

Wolverines will eat whatever they can. Sometimes, they snack on vegetation like whitebark pine nuts. More often, they eat mice, birds, burrowing rodents, beavers, and squirrels.

How Many Yellowstone Wolverines Live Inside the Park?

There’s not a lot of current data on the Yellowstone wolverine population. But from 2006 to 2009, there were only seven wolverines — five males and two females — documented in eastern Yellowstone and the surrounding region.

This could lead one to assume that the wolverine is an endangered species, but it’s important to know that Yellowstone is only a small, southern sliver of the wolverine’s range. In fact, in the continental US, there are only a few small areas where wolverines live.

However, if you go further north, into Canada and Alaska, wolverines enjoy a massive range. They live in Europe and Asia as well. Globally, the species is doing quite well.

But in the US, the status of the species has fluctuated, with evolving court cases.

Why Are There So Few Wolverines in Yellowstone?

Wolverines are solitary when they aren’t breeding. But even then, Yellowstone wolverines have low reproductive rates.

Each female wolverine can birth a single litter of two to four offspring each year.

Keeping an eye on the wolverine population in Yellowstone is a challenge for biologists. Wolverines in the park live in forest or alpine habitat — areas described as islands of trees or tundra, where they create dens in the snow.

Because they isolate themselves so completely, it’s not easy for park managers to monitor them, so population changes can go unnoticed for prolonged periods.

Even so, biologists use telemetryy, aerial surveys, and live traps to study Yellowstone wolverines.

Where Can I See Yellowstone Wolverines?

Alright, bad news first.

There are astonishingly few wolverines inside Yellowstone, and in the continental US as a whole. Your odds of seeing one are incredibly slim. So slim, in fact, that it simply wouldn’t make sense to go looking for them.

Obviously, their solitary nature and remote habitat are complicating factors.

However, Yellowstone is also home to martens and long-tailed weasels, which you’re far more likely to see.

Martens could be anywhere in forests, so keep your eyes open. Like wolverines, both of these animals are usually solitary. Long-tailed weasels also live in forests, but you can see them near meadows, marshes, and water, as well.

In the spring of 2022, a Yellowstone visitor was able to photograph a wolverine near the Northeast Entrance road, so it’s not impossible to see these unique mammals.

Even more recently, there have been several reported wolverine sightings in areas not considered to be within the animal’s typical range.

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