Biologists found that a wolverine named Chewbacca, measured and collared by Cathy Raley, far right, Jeff Heinlen and others, ranged across 730 square miles. (U.S. Forest Service)
Considered a mere scavenger that robbed traps and ransacked cabins, the wolverine has recently earned respect and scientific attention. (Mike Hill / Woodfall / Photoshot / NHPA)
Wolverines inhabit the northernmost latitudes, where their snowshoe-like paws and thick coats are essential to survival. (Igor Shpilenok / Nature Picture Library / Minden Pictures)

The Way of the Wolverine

After all but disappearing, the mammals are again being sighted in Washington’s Cascade Range

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We gather around. These tracks are the only sign we’ll see of the wolverine, but for Aubry that’s how things usually go. “Most of our contact is like this,” he says. “Very indirect.”

Cathy Raley, a Forest Service biologist who collaborates with Aubry, carefully carves one footprint from the snow with a big yellow shovel and holds it out, like a cast. Aubry guesses the tracks are probably two or three days old, judging by their crumbling edges and the light dusting of snow on top of them. It’s worth knowing where the tracks go—maybe to find some hair or scat, something that could be analyzed to determine if they were made by a previously identified animal. So we follow them, looking after them as far as we can, as they wend across the soft relief of the hillside, until they disappear into the broken forest.

Eric Wagner has written for Smithsonian about cranes in Korea and sperm whales near Mexico.

About Eric Wagner

Eric Wagner has written for Smithsonian about cranes in Korea and sperm whales near Mexico.

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