North American Wolverine, gulo gulo luscus, Adult standing on Snow, Canada
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Super Rare Wolverine Spotted in California, Second in 101 Years

The last California wolverine was killed by hunters in 1922.

There's a reason most people think Wolverine is just a superhero and not an actual animal: There are only a few hundred wolverines living in the United States, and only in Colorado, Montana, Idaho—and now, California. The rare animal has been absent from the California landscape for over 100 years until skiers in Mammoth saw one running through the trees a couple of weeks ago.

Ryan Campbell and his friend were on a gondola up to Mammoth Mountain with two strangers when they spotted the bear-like animal below. One of the strangers asked, "Is that a wolverine?"

As Campbell looked where the other man pointed, he observed an animal that looked like "a small bear, except for the white marking, long tail, and the head." He quickly snapped a picture with his phone as the animal hiked up a ski ramp before taking off.

"We saw it running toward a nearby clump of trees. Then, we noticed why it started running," Campbell said. "A skier was coming down the slope and took the jump, likely never having seen how close they were."

Once the creature ran off into the woods, it disappeared. However, he seems to have reappeared in Yosemite National Park, at least, that's what researchers believe. Lucky for us, the wolverine was ready for his close-up, and Park Ranger Tim Knauss snapped a few photos of the elusive furball. Yosemite National Park Service shared images of the rarely-seen creature on their Instagram page.


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According to the post, the park is working on finding out where this "skunk bear" came from and if it's male or female. Either way, seeing a wolverine back in this area is awesome, even if it's just for a short amount of time.  "Seeing the wolverine reminded me that Yosemite is a wild place and how many other incredible, wild, and capable beings we share this place with," Knauss said of his experience.

Wolverines are actually in the weasel family despite looking like small bears. They scavenge dead animals for their meals, burying them under deep, snow-sometimes up to 20 feet. They mark the spot by lifting their tails and dispersing a rather strong and offensive scent, which gave them their nickname, skunk bear. However, these amazing creatures haven't been seen in California since 1922, when hunters wiped them out.

However, another wolverine was captured on a wildlife camera in 2008 in Tahoe National Forest, where the animal was running about the trees. Scientists thought it came from the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, a journey that would've traversed 600 miles. That's pretty wild, considering a male wolverine will typically only range over 230-386 square miles.

The Tahoe wolverine was nicknamed Buddy, and, at the time, Chris Stermer, a senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said to SFGate, "He's a transient. He's a lone wolverine looking for a female he's likely never to find."

KSBW emailed Stermer with a photo of Campbell's newly-spotted wolverine, and he agreed that it was another of the rare furry creatures.

"I am 99.9% certain that is a wolverine in the photo, which is pretty exciting!" Stermer wrote. "In fact, the Department has been sent two videos since last week showing what appears to be a wolverine at a distance, and one was taken by someone on a ski lift."

And Stermer is pretty confident that this is, in fact, not Buddy but another wolverine. Typically, the animals have a lifespan of 5 to 13 years. At most, they live until 15. Buddy was seen intermittently for 10 years, so it's likely he has now passed, and this is a new one.

Pretty cool considering there are only 400 wolverines living in the wild in the United States, all in the Rocky Mountains.

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