A second litter of wolverine offspring has been born in the Mount Rainier National Park, park officials and the Cascades Carnivore Project confirmed on Tuesday.
The litter marks the third wolverine family documented in Washington’s South Cascades in a century and the second family documented in Mount Rainier National Park.
Researchers retrieved photographs and video from cameras set in a remote area of the park where they believed a female wolverine likely made her den in 2020. They discovered the wolverine with her two young kits while visiting the area during June 2021.
“It’s great news to learn that we have our second documented wolverine litter in the park,” said Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Greg Dudgeon. “It helps us confirm that the park’s wilderness is excellent habitat for wolverines and that protection of these wild areas is important to the success of many species of wildlife.”
This female wolverine was first detected at Mount Rainier National Park in late 2019 and is only the second female wolverine documented in Washington’s South Cascades in modern times, said Mount Rainier National Park in a news release. Her DNA, from hair samples collected at several wolverine monitoring stations, confirmed she is part of the recovering wolverine population in Washington and that she did not disperse from a neighboring state.
The current study is a collaboration between Mount Rainier National Park, Cascades Carnivore Project and the United States Forest Service to document the natural recolonization of wolverines into southern Washington and improve scientists’ understanding of how climate change threatens the rare and elusive carnivore.
“Wolverines returning to and reproducing in their historical range is huge for wolverine conservation,” said Jocelyn Akins, founder of Cascades Carnivore Project in the release. “However, there are very few wolverines in Washington. Globally, wolverines face new potential threats from climate change and increased recreation in wilderness areas. … In Washington, connectivity, particularly across I-90 is key to healthy wolverine populations.”
Wolverines are native to Washington’s Cascade Range but are believed to have been extirpated by the 1920s, most likely due to unregulated trapping, shooting and poisoning associated with predator control efforts, said Mount Rainier National Park in the release. Individual wolverines moved south out of Canada to recolonize the North Cascades. Surveys by a collaborative group of researchers for more than 20 years have documented wolverines reoccupying their former habitat throughout the Cascades.
For more information on Mount Rainier National Park, visit www.nps.gov/mora.
To learn more about Cascades Carnivore Project and their opportunities for community scientists to participate in carnivore conservation throughout the Cascade Range in the field and from home, go online to www.cascadescarnivore.org.