Famously elusive wolverine photographed in south Calgary

Famously elusive wolverine photographed in south Calgary

Famously fierce and elusive, wolverines are a rare sight in the Canadian wilderness, even for researchers. As such, glimpsing one in a city the size of Calgary is almost unbelievable.

Yet that’s what happened Saturday in the southern outskirts of the city. Two wildlife photographers snapped images of the solitary carnivore as it darted through frozen marshland.

“It made quite a racket,” said Gordon Cooke, one of the photographers. “I had no idea what it was until it broke out into the open and I got a couple shots of it.”

A few of his images captured the wolverine perched on a log, peering out over the wetlands. The photos are clear enough to see the fur on its back is clumped and wet.

To Cooke, who’s been a wildlife photographer for 11 years, capturing such an elusive creature marked the apex of his career.

“This ranks the ultimate,” he said. “Not just for me, this is basically the ultimate for most wildlife photographers.”

The small wolverine is seen in profile mid-leap amid wet grass.
Photographer Gordon Cooke said he had to adjust his camera quickly in order to capture the wolverine as it ran across the frozen marshland. (Gordon Cooke)

Chris Fisher, an Alberta naturalist, described wolverines as icons of the northern woodlands and mountains. Solitary and ferocious, they’ve been seen to battle larger predators, such as bears, wolves and cougars.

“It’s a superhero of the wilderness,” Fisher said Monday on the Calgary Eyeopener. “Quite frankly, you just don’t see them anywhere, never mind a major metropolitan city like Calgary.”

He said an individual wolverine would wander out of the mountains and toward more populated areas once every few years. Over the last decade or so, they’ve been seen near Airdrie and Medicine Hat.

LISTEN | Naturalist Chris Fisher talks with CBC Calgary’s Loren McGinnis:

Calgary Eyeopener7:34Calgary wolverines

We tell you about a rare wildlife sighting in Calgary over the weekend.

Fisher suspects the wolverine seen on the weekend recently split with its mother, as she will need to care for new kits this spring.

He hopes the animal has fewer human encounters in the future.

“I think the best hope for everything is that [the wolverine] shuns people and sets its wilderness compass to wild areas of Alberta and lives a life free of ever being photographed again,” Fisher said.

Wolverines live solitary lives across large expanses of land.

Recent research suggests their numbers in and around national parks along the Alberta-BC border are dropping due to a combination of increased human recreation, trapping and climate change.

Snow is believed to be an important factor in wolverine habitat. A decrease in mountain and boreal snowpack could limit female wolverines’ ability to find denning sites to raise their young.

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