This post was split off from an earlier post that got too large, California Wolverine Re-discovered After 85 Years. This particular post will deal with the question of wolverines in the states of Utah and Colorado.
Wolverines in Utah
Also in March 1979, a man shot a wolverine on Highway 40 in Utah, 1½ miles west of the Colorado border near Dinosaur, Colorado.
I recently received a report of a good, but unconfirmed, wolverine sighting in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah. The sighting occurred on August 20, 1989 in the Upper Escalante River Canyon at the junction with Coyote Gulch (map here). The wolverine was in the canyon chasing a beaver near its beaver dam. It also swam across the river.
The sighting was by a man with a Master’s Degree in Ecology from UC Davis. The elevation for the sighting was 4,100 feet, but wolverines are not always found at high elevations.
This is an extremely unusual place to see a wolverine, but they probably used to live here. There are place names such as “Wolverine Bench” on the map in the Escalante Canyon area, and wolverines used be found into Northern Arizona. If wolverines existed in Northern Arizona, clearly they existed in the Glen Canyon area. Wolverines live in very similar habitat in the Snake River Canyon in Idaho.
The Upper Escalante River Canyon is in the Aquarius Plateau, which has 50,000 acres of land above 11,000 feet. That’s clearly wolverine habitat. The junction of Coyote Gulch and the Upper Escalante is a ways away from the plateau, but it’s likely a dispersing juvenile could be found in the area. A photo of the terrain is here.
In recent years there have been documented sightings of wolverines around Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake. One was photographed running through a suburban development!
Wolverines in Colorado
There was an unconfirmed and undated sighting of a wolverine chasing a boy on a motorcycle down a road in the Routt National Forest in far Northern Colorado some years ago. The Routt is near Steamboat Springs up by the Wyoming border.
There have also been quite a few sightings in the San Juan Mountains north of Durango, Colorado and southeast of Wolf Creek Pass.
Wolverines have also been spotted, incredibly, near Sterling on the Great Plains in Northeastern Colorado, which seems very odd, but looking through all of these reports, it becomes apparent that wolverines in Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Iowa, and Minnesota may indeed use prairie habitat.
Even aboriginally, prairie was thought to be marginal for wolverines, but perhaps that was wrong. Pre-contact, vast herds of buffalo roamed the prairie, and there would be plenty of dead buffalo for the scavenging wolverine to eat.
Recently, there was an unconfirmed wolverine sighting 4-5 miles up Red Sandstone Road in Vail, Colorado on the White River National Forest.
A Colorado Department of Wildlife biologist spotted one south of Trapper Lake in Flat Tops Wilderness in the mid-1960’s. The Flat Tops is partly in the White River National Forest and partly in the Routt NF in Colorado.
In July 1977, a man found a wolverine skull in the East Fork of the Cinnamon River Drainage in Gunnison County, Colorado. The skull was less than 10 years old.
In June 1978, a couple photographed an adult wolverine with three cubs in the Uncompagre.
In June 1978, a man took three photos of a wolverine crossing a snow field on Trinchera Peak (13,513 feet) in the Sangre de Christo Mountains in Southern Colorado.
In March 1979, three biologists with the Colorado Department of Wildlife saw a wolverine near the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery near Rifle, Colorado in Garfield County in Western Colorado.
In June 1979, a man watched a wolverine for four minutes as it approached a bear bait he had set near Parshall in Grant County, Colorado. That area is southwest of Rocky Mountain National Park.
In the late 1980’s, there was an unconfirmed sighting of a wolverine in the Uncompagre Wilderness on the Uncompagre National Forest. The Uncompagre is in Southern Colorado and is located about 20 miles northwest of Telluride.
There was another unconfirmed sighting of tracks from the Flat Tops Wilderness in 2003.
There have been multiple unconfirmed wolverine sightings in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado since 2000.
- Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Predator Conservation Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, and Superior Wilderness Action Network. 2000. Petition for a Rule to List the Wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act within the Contiguous United States . Submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service on July 11, 2000.
- Nead, D. M.; Halfpenny, J. C.; and Bissell, S. 1984. “The Status of Wolverines in Colorado.” Northwest Sci. 58: 286-289.
- Predator Conservation Alliance. 2001. Predator Conservation Alliance’s Literature Summary – Draft – January 24, 2001 – Draft Conservation Status and Needs of the Wolverine (Gulo gulo).
- If you think this website is valuable to you, please consider a contribution to support the continuation of the site.