From the Yosemite N.P. (California) facebook page:
“An enigmatic and elusive carnivore recently showed up in Yosemite!
On May 24, 2023, Park Ranger Tim Knauss was fortunate to catch sight of a wolverine (Gulo gulo) in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park. This sighting is the latest in a string of observations in the Sierra Nevada, and researchers believe these to be of the same individual. Amazingly, this rare glimpse of a wolverine is only the second confirmed detection of this species in California in more than 100 years!
Formerly a California native, the wolverine is thought to have become locally extinct in 1922. While there have been a handful of unvalidated reports of wolverines in California after this date, it wasn’t until 2008 that a wolverine definitively turned up on a camera station just north of the Lake Tahoe area. Collection of DNA from the 2008 individual’s scat revealed a genetic signature that closely matched the Rocky Mountain population. This event supports the concept that gene flow between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains could be bridged as these adventurous travelers move long distances during big snow years.
These wild carnivores are sometimes described as phantoms due to their elusive behavior and mysterious traits. Belonging to the weasel family, wolverines are closely related to martens and fishers in North America, and to their Central and South American counterpart, the tayra. Wolverines have an incredible sense of smell and can detect carcasses twenty feet under the snow. As opportunistic feeders, they tend to scavenge dead animals killed by other predators such as wolves or bears. After they cache their food, they will mark the spot by lifting their tail and emitting an offensive odor (hence the nickname “skunk bear”). However, wolverines are also excellent hunters, capable of bringing down large prey in deep snow and excavating ground squirrels and other small mammals with their exceptionally long claws.
Currently, much is unknown about this new visitor to the Sierra Nevada. Efforts are underway to collect biological samples that will reveal the animal’s sex and origin. Most likely this wolverine is a dispersed male that may have traveled hundreds of miles from its native range. Without a female companion to start a small population in a new area, genetic diversity will remain low unless more wolverines establish territories and inhabit this mountain range.
Just a glimpse of this lone traveler is exciting, as any evidence of their occupancy, such as tracks, is widely sought after but seldom found. The record snowpack in the region this past winter may have allowed this wolverine to move farther south than otherwise possible. “Seeing the wolverine reminded me that Yosemite is a wild place and how many other incredible, wild and capable beings we share this place with,” Tim Knauss reflected on his lucky experience. Whether this animal stays in the Sierra Nevada or roams back north and east, it’s an encouraging sight to see the intrepid wolverine return to its home in the Sierra Nevada.”
Bill adds: There was unusually heavy snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. As of April 1, snowcover stood at a record 244% of average in Yosemite N.P. There is currently no estimated date for Tioga Road to open for the summer. The road opened on May 27 last year and in 2021. Yosemite N.P. adds that “Rivers are surprisingly swift, cold and dangerous”.
The water level of Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in California, is holding steady (at a time when it is usually falling). The lake level has risen 134 feet since January 1 and is just 4 feet below full pool.
The water level of Lake Mead is holding steady (again, at a time when it is usually falling). The level is approximately 9.4 feet higher than one year ago and 8.7 feet higher than early April.
The Colorado River at Cisco UT has a flow of 25,200 cubic feet per second. Average for 6/10 is 22,900 cfs. The Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry AZ has a flow of 19,900 cfs, compared to an average flow for 6/10 of 16,600 cfs.
Note…the Colorado River loses water (gets smaller) from the intersection of the Green River in Utah. The Colorado River just above the Ocean to Ocean Bridge in Yuma, AZ has a flow of 1,020 cfs, a tiny fraction of the flow upstream in Utah as water is removed from the river for water supply and irrigation.
Also – as I write this close to 1 am EDT – my cat is on the sofa besides me very faintly snoring. She’s named “Nimbus” and is 14 years old – she was a stray and has been a wonderful addition to the family.