Fallen Wolverine Traveled to Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain National Parks

Wolverine

A wolverine that took up residence near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park before traveling 500 miles in 2009 to live intermittently in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado was killed at the end of April 2016.

M-56 was the first documented wolverine to live in Colorado since 1919, and he seemed to take advantage of his time in the state, spending time in Rocky Mountain National Park and journeying across Interstate 70 to the Mosquito Range mountains southeast of Leadville. Since wolverines need large areas of high-elevation habitat, he covered territories well-suited for his needs.

From time to time, photographers caught sight of him and one, Ray Rafiti, captured shots of the wolverine near the Forest Canyon Overlook as he explored Rocky Mountain National Park. It was the first wolverine sighted in the park in 90 years, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

“Photographing him really is a highlight of my career,” Rafiti told the Coloradoan. “I’d spent so much time in Rocky Mountain National Park, so to see him in the park was a really connected experience.”

But when M-56’s collar stopped emitting a signal in October 2012, biologists lost track of him. No one knew if he was alive.

Flash forward four years and 700 miles north of Rocky Mountain National Park. In April, a rancher outside of Alexander, N.D., shot and killed M-56 for reportedly harassing his livestock. No charges will be filed against the rancher since North Dakota law permits the killing of wildlife to justifiably protect livestock. While there are fewer than 400 wolverines in the Lower 48, they are not on the federal endangered species list that offers special protection under the Endangered Species Act.