Repost from the old site.
Separate posts on this blog deal extensively with wolverines in Oregon, Washington, Idaho (here and here), Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. There are also five posts on the wolverine in California.
This post was split off from an earlier post that got too large, California Wolverine Rediscovered After 85 Years. This particular post will deal with the question of wolverines in the Upper Midwest. Until recently, wolverines had been extinct in the Upper Midwest for 85-200 years.
However, one was photographed recently in Michigan. Furthermore, there have been some tantalizing sightings in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota and even a few in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri in recent years. It is distinctly possible the wolverines may be reclaiming some of their historical territory in the Upper Midwest. If so, this is fascinating indeed.
In 2004, a wolverine was photographed in Ubly, Michigan, 90 miles north of Detroit. They were extirpated from Michigan almost 200 years ago.
DNA testing of this wolverine showed that it was from Alaska. How it got from Alaska to Michigan is anyone’s guess. On March 14, 2010, this wolverine was found dead in Sanilac County, Michigan, south of where it was originally sighted in Ubly.
There has been one other sighting in from lower Michigan. A wolverine was sighted around 1998-2000 in Tawas, Michigan.
The reason it could have come down is because there are wolverine sightings on the Upper Peninsula, and I believe they exist there. Or possibly it could have come from Southern Ontario near Port Huron, though that area is densely populated.
The sightings on the Upper Peninsula have been in Delta County, Tahquamenon Falls State Park and the Keweenaw Peninsula. I assume that the Upper Peninsula population came from Ontario, possibly across the St. Mary’s River, if it freezes over in wintertime.
A forest road in Delta County, Michigan. This road is in Escanaba State Forest. A wolverine was sighted here in an unverified sighting sometime between 1999-2004. During this period, there was about one wolverine sighting a year in Michigan, all from the Upper Peninsula.The forests here have been changed massively from 100 years ago, when most of the White Pine was logged off. I assume what we have here is Eastern second-growth forest coming back in after the old growth was logged off. This second-growth explosion is fueling an increase in wildlife numbers, especially deer, all over the East Coast.
Tahquamenon Falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. This area is located at the far east end of the UP near Ontario. The town of Paradise is nearby, as is Whitefish Bay. If the St. Mary’s River is frozen over, wolverines may well come down from Ontario to the UP. The part of Ontario near Sault Saint Marie is pretty sparsely populated. An unverified sighting of a wolverine was reported here in 2002.
There was also an unverified wolverine sighting in the UP on November 21, 2001 at 3 PM, crossing Highway M-64 1 mile south of Silver City in Ontonagon County.
There has been a rash of wolverine sightings lately around Babbitt, Minnesota, which is near Ely in the far northeastern part of the state near Canada. A tiny lynx population has recently also been confirmed there. The sightings around Babbitt appear to be genuine. Babbitt is surrounded by the Superior National Forest and there are frequent sightings of bears and even wolves in the area, even inside city limits.
There was also a sighting on Koochiching County on the Minnesota border with Canada in 1982. That sighting was deemed credible. In addition, there was one documented sighting in northeastern Minnesota between 1961-1995, but details are lacking.
There have been reports of dog and horse kills in and around Rollag, Minnesota lately. Certain things about the killings indicate that a wolverine may be doing this. Rollag is far to the north, getting up near the North Woods. It is east of and not far from Fargo, North Dakota.
In 1974 there was a report of a wolverine in a hay field in north-central Minnesota, near the North Woods.
There is also a report of a wolverine captured on a security camera at a Ford dealership in the town of Zumbrota in Southeast Minnesota. This land is very much prairie. The last positive record of a wolverine in Minnesota was from 1922 in Itasca County.
Old State Route 52 north of Zumbrota, Minnesota. It’s hard to believe that wolverines inhabit such terrain. Wolverines are recolonizing their old habitat on the US prairie. Why?
Many have questioned whether wolverines were actually common in prairies or if prairies merely served as population sinks. It is looking more and more like prairies are a natural home for wolverines, strange as it may seem. If these reports are accurate, it means that wolverines are re-colonizing Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and possibly also Iowa, which is fantastic news!
Prairie Island (Sioux) Indian Reservation near Zumbrota, Minnesota. Is it possible that wolverines in the past preyed on the vast buffalo herds of prairie, perhaps especially on dead buffaloes?
The occurrence of the wolverine in Wisconsin is very rare but documented. A wolverine was photographed on top of a woodpile in Green Lake County, Wisconsin in recent years. There are also recent sightings in the Black River Falls area and to the north. A 2003 sighting in Lafayette County in the far south of the state was regarded as credible by the the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Furthermore, we received a number of undocumented sightings by email to this site. One man grew up in Land O’ Lakes in far northern Wisconsin on the border with Michigan in an area known as the North Woods. This is an area of very thick, wild forest and swamps. There are supposedly many wolves, bears and wolverines in this part of Wisconsin.
In 1982, he saw three wolves in his front yard. In 1990, they treed 22 different bears in a single day while training bear dogs. They also had a frightening standoff with a wolverine on that day. From about 1983-1995, when he engaged in frequent deer hunting, he saw one or more wolverines every year.
In September 1990, a wolverine was seen several times over two weeks. The last time he saw one was in 2006 near Rhinelander, Wisconsin. All sightings took place between 1983-2006 in the North Woods approximately between Rhinelander and Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. The bear density in this region is said to be incredible, or at least it was 20 years ago (Bangs 2009).
There have been a few unverified sightings of wolverines in North Dakota recently. In 2004, there was an unverified sighting of a wolverine near Minot. The observer watched it for a good five minutes. In 1988, two wolverines were seen along the Little Missouri River in the Badlands of far western North Dakota by a very experienced fur trapper.
There have also been wolverine sightings in South Dakota in the past 30 years. There was a verifiable wolverine sighting in the south-central portion of the state in 1961.
There were reports some years ago of a “black animal” going south through eastern Iowa killing dogs. It may have been a wolverine. A female wolverine was shot dead by a farmer on May 21, 1960 in a cornfield in central Iowa. She was infected with Trichinella spiralis, a parasite. No one quite knew how she ended up in central Iowa. However, one report said that this wolverine had been transported into the state in 1960.
Incredibly enough, there have been a number of wolverine sightings in Nebraska in recent years. All sightings have been in northern Nebraska near the South Dakota border. In particular, wolverines have been repeatedly sighted in and around Antelope and Knox Counties in far northeastern Nebraska near the Missouri River and the South Dakota border.
This area is near Louis and Clark Lake and the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation. In this area, there have been repeated sightings along the Verdigre and Niobrara Rivers.
Photo of the area of NE Nebraska around the Niobrara, Verdigre and Elkhorn Rivers where there have been numerous wolverine sightings. That is probably the Verdigre River in the foreground.
There has also been one sighting north of Gordon in northwestern Nebraska on the headwaters of Wounded Knee Creek near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This area is east of the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, now the scene of a famous fight over selling booze to Pine Ridge Indians.
A view of the terrain around Whiteclay, Nebraska. A wolverine was sighted on the South Dakota border about 17 miles east of here.
The first Grey Wolf in 94 years was seen recently in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It was a lone male. The UP, Minnesota and Wisconsin all have healthy populations. The Black Bear and wolf populations in Minnesota have shown dramatic increases in recent years and there is now a healthy population of over 25 lynx in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for the first time in 30 years.
In other great news along similar lines, an Eastern Grey Wolf, the first in 160 years, was detected in Massachusetts. It killed over a dozen lambs before the farmer shot it to death. The killing was probably justified, but it is unfortunate that the first wolf in the state in over 150 years got shot to death. There will probably be more wolves coming to the state after this one, though.
Click the wolverines label at the end of the post to see other posts on wolverines in the US, including many sighting reports and photos.
Aubry, K. B., McKelvey, K. S., Copeland, J. P. 2007. Distribution and Broadscale Habitat Relations of the Wolverine in the Contiguous United States. Journal of Wildlife Management 71(7): 148-158.
Bangs, Ray. 2009. Personal communication.Haugen, A. O. 1961. Wolverine in Iowa. Journal of Mammalogy 42: 546-547.Jackson, H. T. 1922. Wolverine in Itasca County, Minnesota. Journal of Mammalogy 3:53.
Zimmermann, W. J., Biester, H. E., Schwarte, L. H., Hubbard, E. D. 1962. Trichinella spiralis in Iowa Wildlife during the Years 1953 to 1961. The Journal of Parasitology, 48:3:1, pp. 429-432.