A camera array in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains captured confirmed evidence of a wolverine for the first time in more than 30 years, a Forest Service official told colleagues yesterday.

The photo was taken in a relatively pristine part of Tahoe National Forest that Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Hilda Solis have proposed to protect as a Wilderness Study Area under their California Wild Heritage Act.

wolverine

Forest Service Ecologist William J. Zielinski reported that the find (which came as a result of work by graduate student Katie Moriarty) was confirmed by wolverine expert Jeff Copeland. Zielinski and his team are now working to find out where this wolverine came from.

Wolverines need immense ranges to survive and can cover hundreds of miles in a few days. They need help, though: they’ve been exterminated through large parts of their range, and it’s unknown how many live in California.

Defenders of Wildlife has been working to get them declared an endangered species, but the Bush administration has blocked their efforts so far, even though trapping has severely limited their numbers. The Bush administration is also making things worse by trying to remove endangered species protections for grey wolves. Wolverines often feed on carrion left over by wolves — bad news for wolves is bad news for wolverines.

Nevertheless, this news is a ray of hope for American wildlife.