Not since the 1850s has there been a confirmed wolverine in North Dakota until last month when a rancher shot one in an encounter with livestock. 

A North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologist confirmed to the Grand Forks Herald they get reports of wolverines from time to time, but never a confirmed kill before. Often those sightings turn out to be fishers, which look similar.

Although there is a season for hunting furbearers, such as wolverine, killing one out of season — such as this case — if the animal threatens livestock is within the law, and an investigation found the rancher acted within his rights.

The confirmed wolverine in North Dakota shows a willingness for the animal to migrate long distances from its nearest known territories in Glacier National Park and northern Canada. Not since the 18th and 19th centuries have fur trappers taken wolverines in North Dakota, confirmed a local professor.

“Alexander Henry and other early fur traders did take them along the Red River and in the Pembina Hills area in the late 18th and early 19th century,” Robert Seabloom, a professor emeritus of biology at UN told the paper in an email. “Also there may have been a sighting in the (Killdeer Mountains) in the 19th century.”

For now, the wolverine will be examined by wildlife biologists in attempt to determine where it came from, its age and diet and what diseases, if any, it might be carrying.

© Robin Eriksson | Dreamstime.com – Wolverine