By Cheri Mossburg, CNN
(CNN) — A trio of rare wolverine sightings in California has been verified by scientists, marking just the second time in a century the animal has been spotted in the Golden State.
All three sightings were reported by different people last month in various parts of the Eastern Sierra Mountains.
One was seen in Yosemite National Park and two in the Inyo National Forest, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday.
Wolverines are members of the weasel family which resemble small bears and are typically found in Alaska and Canada, with some smaller populations in the Rocky and Cascade mountain ranges.
“Wolverines can travel great distances, making it likely that the recent sightings are all of the same animal,” said Daniel Gammons, senior environmental scientist for the fish and wildlife department. “Because only two wolverines have been confirmed in California during the last 100 years, these latest detections are exciting.”
Using photos and videos taken witnesses, scientists were able to identify the animal as a wolverine “by its size, body proportion, coloration and movement patterns,” the department said in a news release. They used coordinates embedded in the media to geolocate where the photos and video were taken, the department explained.
Wolverines are listed as a threatened species under California’s Endangered Species Act. They are being considered for addition to the US list of endangered and threatened species, as there are thought to be only about 300 wolverines in the country. A final determination is expected in November.
The last time a wolverine was spotted in California was documented by scientists between 2008 and 2018 in the Tahoe National Forest. Before then, the last sightings were in the 1920s.
“The recent detections were likely of a different wolverine given that the species’ lifespan is typically 12 to 13 years,” said the wildlife department.
Scientists are hoping to further study the animals by collecting genetic samples through hair, scat or saliva found at feeding sites.
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