Friday, July 3, 2009

Estes Park NEWS - On-Line Daily, In-Print Fridays

Wolverine Sighting In Rocky Mountain National Park

By: Kris Hazelton Last Friday night, June 26 th wildlife photographer Ray Rafiti from Fort Collins was photographing a bull elk at timberline above Trail Ridge road. Said Ray, ?The elk I was shooting spooked for no apparent reason. I saw what I thought was a bear cub walking out of the tree line. As it came closer I saw this wasn't a bear cub, but a wolverine. I was able to get a handful of shots before it left the scene.? Colorado Division of Wildlife and park officials suspect the animal Rafiti photographed is the first wolverine to be spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park since it was established in 1915 and the first to be seen in Colorado since 1919. The park often gets reports of wolverine sightings, yet no one has been able to document the sighting with photographic proof such as this. From Kylie Patterson, spokesperson for Rocky Mountain National Park, "There is nothing at this point to make us believe these are not authentic photographs. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first photo documentation of a wolverine in Rocky Mountain National Park. The wolverine is the largest landdwelling species of the weasel family. It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, resembling a small bear. The wolverine has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times its size. The world's total wolverine population is unknown. The animal exhibits a low population density and requires a very large home range. The range of a male wolverine can be more than 240 square miles and radio tracking suggests an animal can range hundreds of miles in a few months. Patterson continued, ?We are excited that this native species has been seen and photographed in the park. The odds of someone seeing a wolverine is extremely rare. Any wildlife should not be approached. Just like most wildlife, wolverines prefer to avoid human contact and they are not known to be aggressive toward humans. If you see a wolverine, you should thank your lucky stars and then back away slowly."

EP News in Alaska! Photo courtesy Ray Rafiti © 2009 We took the EP News to Alaska! Picture on a Denali glacier below Mt. McKinley/Denali during a K2 flight landing adventure. Photo courtesy Dale and Brenda Friedrich

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