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Monday, 31 March 2008 01:11

Return Of The Wolverine

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slide24.jpgTwo more photographs of a wolverine lurking in the Tahoe National Forest were released Monday, extinguishing all doubt that the elusive predator exists in the wilds of California. The wolverine pictures, taken from remote digital cameras by U.S. Forest Service researchers, mean the muscular carnivore with the almond-colored stripe has either avoided detection for three-quarters of a century or returned to the state after an epic journey. An earlier image of what may be the same wolverine was captured inadvertently on February 28 by a graduate student doing research on the wolverine's weasel family relative, the marten, and set off a near frenzy among scientists and wildlife experts.

The latest pictures, taken March 13, show the front of a wolverine that researchers believe is the same animal. Researchers, biologists and volunteers have fanned out over 155 square miles from the spot where the photo was taken in the forest north of Truckee, hunting for genetic material. The wolverine, which had not been documented in the Sierra since 1922, was believed by many to have vanished from California. Researchers say the animal either migrated across an enormous distance or it's part of a small group of native wolverines that somehow evaded detection for the better part of a century.

slide26.jpgThe North American wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family, with adults weighing as much as 45 pounds. Remarkably strong, with powerful jaws, wolverines have been known to kill much larger prey, but in North America they are mostly scavengers. Wolverines were once fairly common throughout the northern regions of the United States, but they are now found mainly in the Northern Cascades in Washington, the Northern Rockies in Montana and Idaho, and in Alaska.

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