Wolverine Talk in New Hampshire

My mother tells me that she was recently at a talk on mountain lions in New Hampshire, where my family has had a summer house since 1922 (lest anyone think this marks me a rich snob, let me hasten to add that the summer house in question still had an outhouse until two years ago – now upgraded to a composting toilet – and remains essentially primitive. Which is why we love it.) During this talk, the presenter apparently talked about wolverines as a ‘rare mammal of New Hampshire;’ my mother, who, like my entire family, has been inundated over the past few years with minutiae about wolverine ecology, brought up the lack of adequate denning habitat in the region, and was laughed at by the audience for not realizing that snow on Mount Washington until June should count (the presenter, in fact, evidently asserted that there was a glacier on the mountain, which is entirely inaccurate.) I love New Hampshire and I wish that there were wolverines running around the entire state, but a breeding population would require hundreds of square miles of deep spring snowpack to persist, and remnant snowpack in Tuckerman’s Ravine isn’t enough to support such a population. Bottom line: unless there’s an extremely elusive population of wolverines behaving in a completely un-wolverine-like manner  – denning in trees, for example – somewhere in the White Mountains, the only gulos in the state are probably released captives.

New Hampshire does, however, support a population of the wolverine’s cousin, the marten, and the Tin Mountain Center for Conservation will be hosting a talk about them this Thursday, the 20th, at 7 pm in the Tin Mountain Nature Learning Center in Albany, New Hampshire. Michael Jones, the researcher conducting the work via his organization, Beyond Ktaadn, will also talk about looking for wolverines in Quebec, where most wolverine biologists believe the species was extirpated by the 1980’s. A brief excerpt about Jones’ interest in wolverines was published last year in Appalachia, the journal of the Appalachian Mountain Club; the whole article is available as a .pdf (seems like yet another account of wolverine obsession driving researchers past the limits of normal human endeavor….even if he doesn’t find wolverines, the focus on eastern alpine tundra is a great counterpoint for those of us who are seeking to understand alpine tundra ecosystems out West and as far afield as Mongolia.) Details about the talk can be found here and here.



10 thoughts on “Wolverine Talk in New Hampshire

  1. It also has a healthy population of fisher cats. I came across 2 on Mt. Monadnock once, didn’t know what they were at the time, and could see some one mistaking them for a wolverine, if they aren’t in the know!

    • I’m pretty sure that a lot of supposed wolverine sightings in New England are actually fishers, because people don’t know what they are, or that they are there. Fishers, it’s also worth noting, are officially martens – martes pennanti. An animal with very different habitat needs, but equally cool.

  2. I agree that fisher sightings make up the bulk of wolverine reports in the Northeast.

    Do you have any input on wolverine relocation efforts, or lack thereof, in northern Quebec? My understanding is that for whatever reason, despite vast expanses of what seems like suitable habitat, wolverines have only been able to minimally (at best) repopulate the area.

    • I have to confess to relative ignorance on the Quebec gulo population, although I’m in the process of looking more closely at what’s going on in Canada generally. My understanding is that wolverines are considered extirpated from Quebec and that thus far, no one has been able to prove otherwise. It seems like the researcher mentioned in the post is putting some effort into clarifying the question, but after a couple of seasons of running camera traps, they don’t seem to have found any wolverines.

  3. I saw a pair of strange looking animals at 3:00 a.m. this morning. It was an adult and baby. Keep in mind, this was from a distance and with only the dim light cast by a nearby street light. BUt, these were not raccoons or skunks. I see those regularly. So, the first thought that went through my head was: are those bears? (because they were quite large) and then the second thought was : why do they look like they have long snouts and long tails with 2 colors brown in their fur? Upon looking up a list of all mammals in New England: the closest thing resembling what I saw is the wolverine. It says that the wolverine is extirpated from New England – so no longer native to this area. BUt, haven’t stranger things happened? DOn’t they travel as much as 50 miles in a day for food? Over the course of a few weeks, couldn’t that add up to VERY LONG distances? I don’t know… but I think we should keep an open mind about the possibility that wolverines might be spotted in New England again. I mean, on the news recently there was a moose in Watertown, MA – right there deep into an urban area. So, wildlife surprises us. I will look out for them again, and this time will have a camera with me.

  4. Last night around dusk I believe my wife and I spotted a wolverine in Jaffrey NH. It was not a racoon, weasel or fisher. It was short ,wide, round, head,small ears pointing up, short tail and oily looking skin. It looked ill and was not startled by our jeep. I spent hours on the computer trying to identify it and can not come up with any matches other then wolverine

  5. I’m looking at a wolverine right now in a tree right in my back yard. It’s eating something at the top of the tree. I saw the prints from it in my yard over the winter and couldn’t figure out what they were until I tried to figure out what this animal was in my back yard! I’m in Barrington New Hampshire. Thought I’d share & it’s only 4:45 pm I can see it clear as day.

    • Please take a picture and send it. Also, take a photo of the tracks and send those as well. Be sure to include something for scale when you photograph the tracks. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the report. Without documented evidence (DNA, photos) we can’t consider it a verified sighting, regardless of the degree of expertise of the person who saw the animal. This is true even for wolverine biologists – our sightings aren’t considered verified without evidence either.

      That said, it’s unlikely that what you saw was a wolverine. There is no wolverine population in NH and the nearest animals are in Ontario. It may have been a fisher, which do live in NH and which can look like they have similar markings to a wolverine.

      Let us know if you have any documentation or if you see it again and manage to get a picture of it or of tracks. Thanks again.

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