Wolverine kits documented in the South Cascades for the first time in many decades.

Deep in the William O Douglas Wilderness, east of Mt Rainier National Park, our wolverine mama, Pepper is raising two young kits. See Seattle Times article.
Pepper and her 2 kits outside the den

On May 16th, our field crew returned from a 3-day snow camping trip into this remote, mountainous habitat with exciting news. Scott, Kayla, and I retrieved photos and video of Pepper and her kits from the den. This is the first reproductive wolverine den documented in Washington’s southern Cascade Range (Cascades south of Interstate 90) and the 3rd den in the state in over 50 years. 

Pepper's mate, an unknown male, at the den entrance

One of Pepper's kits, likely 3 months old today

In North America, wolverine kits are typically born in mid to late February so these kits are likely 2.5 to 3 months old today. 

Pepper displaying her unique chest blaze at a monitoring station

An unknown male, likely Pepper's mate, displaying his unique chest blaze

Previously, Scott and Kayla, our determined field crew, had gone above and beyond the call of duty to set a wildlife monitoring station far out in the wilderness. The station is designed specifically to identify individual wolverines from photographs based on their unique chest blaze and determine the wolverine’s sex, and possibly, its reproductive status. Here, they detected both the female wolverine nicknamed Pepper and an unknown male, which we assume is her mate. 

Scott and Kayla arriving at the den to check the cameras

The crew first discovered the den after wolverine experts examined photographs from the monitoring station, and determined that Pepper was lactating and thus raising young nearby. They followed wolverine tracks to the den after extensive searching. 

Scott looking for prey remains at a melted out snow cache - a "wolverine refrigerator"

They also followed tracks to several snow holes, where the wolverines had cached prey items deep in tree wells that act like refrigerators. These snow holes, where wolverines can keep food from rotting, are thought to be one of the reasons why wolverines rely upon snow for their survival.

Fresh wolverine track at our camp

During the last night of the trip - the 4th visit for Scott and Kayla - we were woken to a sniffing sound close to our tents. The next morning, we discovered fresh wolverine tracks in the snow under my socks that I had hung to dry on a branch, 4-ft from my tent. 

Wildy, the first wolverine documented south of I-90 in modern times

Our goal is to document the natural recolonization of wolverines into southern Washington and improve our understanding of how climate change threatens this rare and elusive carnivore.

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