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Montana man photographs pack of wolverines in Teton wilderness

Wolverines in Teton Wilderness
Posted at 7:45 PM, Oct 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-09 22:48:49-04

WYOMING — It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sighting that one Montana man was lucky enough to see. Doug MacCartney saw not one, not two, but a pack of about a dozen wolverines while hiking in the Teton wilderness.

With more than 30 years of experience in the National Park Service and now a guide with Yellowstone Insight, Doug MacCartney has seen some wildlife.

“As far as wildlife sightings, yeah, and that beats out seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 bears in a day up near McNeil River,” said MacCartney on Friday.

But it’s a rare wolverine sighting that MacCartney counts as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that really even comes close,” MacCartney said.

It happened when MacCartney and his two colleagues explored the beautiful Teton wilderness in August.


“We were trying to climb a peak in the area. As we approached the peak, we spotted a grizzly sow with two or three cubs,” said MacCartney.

They were just about to leave the area when MacCartney’s colleague noticed the bears starting to run.

“When I looked back and noticed the first of the wolverines. It was up on a fairly good size boulder, and it leaped off. Then I noticed another wolverine, and then another wolverine,” MacCartney said.

The trio of hikers couldn’t believe their eyes as they counted up to a dozen wolverines, especially since these animals don’t usually congregate.

“In the wild, I don’t think anyone has ever seen anywhere near that number. I really don’t know, I’m not a researcher, I know we were all shocked by it,” said MacCartney.

The disbelief was warranted as MacCartney’s sighting was confirmed by at least three wolverine researchers.

“Three of the wolverine researchers that I’ve shown the photos to have all agreed, yeah, they’re wolverines. They’re not very good pictures, but they’re wolverines,” MacCartney said.


The wildlife sightings didn’t stop even as the group was about to leave.

“We saw another sow with two yearling cubs cross and go up the same snowfield the other bears and the wolverines had gone up,” said MacCartney.

MacCartney theorizes that there could have been an animal carcass in the area that attracted the pack of wolverines.

“Obviously, there was something there that drew not just the wolverines but that would be a total of seven bears as well, to the area,” MacCartney said.

He kept the experience private until recently, not wanting to bring in a barrage of hikers to the area, possibly endangering the animals, but it was a story that had to be shared.

“It would probably help wolverines more than it would risk harming them, to raise awareness,” said MacCartney.


Wolverines sometimes seen to resemble a small bear, but they are actually the largest member of the weasel family. From the Montana Field Guide:

The Wolverine is a bear-like mustelid with massive limbs and long, dense, dark brown pelage, paler on the head, with two broad yellowish stripes extending from the shoulders and joining on the rump. Variable white or yellowish markings are often present on the throat and chest. The tail is bushy. The feet are relatively large (6.5 to 11.3 centimeters total length) with robust claws. Wolverines weigh between 7 and 32 kilograms and range from 0.9 to 1.1 meters in length.

FWP says that wolverines are surprisingly powerful for their size and can be dangerous. If you see one, do not get closer to take a photo. Call FWP or the nearest law enforcement agency.

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