Wolverines have reproduced at Mount Rainier National Park for a third year in a row, according to an announcement last week by the Cascade Carnivore Project.
The news marks another positive development for the project as well as the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, which have been working together to document and study the “natural recolonization of wolverines in Washington and the impacts of climate change on their mountain home.”
Back in 2019, a female wolverine — since named Joni by researchers — was first detected in Mount Rainier National Park. At the time, it was only the second female wolverine documented in Washington’s South Cascades in modern times. Her DNA, from hair samples collected at several wolverine monitoring stations, confirmed she is part of the recovering wolverine population in Washington and that she did not disperse from a neighboring state, according to a previous news release. Researchers confirmed she had produced a litter.
Two additional litters have been documented since then, according to the organizations involved in the effort.
Last week, the nonprofit Cascade Carnivore Project announced news of the latest development in the recolonization of wolverines.
“Late this spring, we captured these photographs of Joni, a female wolverine, and her two kits, after skiing and hiking into snowy areas of the park and surrounding wilderness areas,” the project wrote alongside images of the animals. “Earlier in the year, we documented that Joni was lactating, meaning she had reproduced again, and after visiting several camera stations, we captured these photographs. Joni was first detected in 2019 — the first resident female wolverine documented at Mount Rainier in a century. She also raised two kits in 2020 and two in 2021. Wolverines give birth in snow dens around Valentine's Day and rely upon a deep snowpack for successfully raising their young.”
“We will continue to monitor this wolverine family as Joni and her kits begin to travel widely through Mount Rainier National Park and the surrounding lands,” the announcement concluded.
Wolverines are native to Washington’s Cascade Range but are believed to have been extirpated by the 1920s, most likely due to unregulated trapping, shooting and poisoning associated with predator control efforts, said Mount Rainier National Park in the release. Individual wolverines moved south out of Canada to recolonize the North Cascades.
Surveys by a collaborative group of researchers for more than 20 years have documented wolverines reoccupying their former habitat throughout the Cascades.
For more information on Mount Rainier National Park, visit www.nps.gov/mora.
To learn more about Cascades Carnivore Project and their opportunities for community scientists to participate in carnivore conservation throughout the Cascade Range in the field and from home, go online to www.cascadescarnivore.org.