Famous and elusive wolverine photographed in south Calgary

Famous for their ferocity and elusiveness, wolverines are a rare sight in the Canadian wilderness, even to researchers. As such, seeing one in a city the size of Calgary is almost unbelievable.

Yet that is what happened on Saturday in the southern outskirts of the city. Two wildlife photographers took pictures of the solitary carnivore as it sped through the frozen marshes.

“It made quite a fuss,” said Gordon Cooke, one of the photographers. “I had no idea what it was until it burst open and I took some pictures of it.”

A few of his images captured the wolverine perched on a log, looking over wetlands. The photos are clear enough to see the fur on his clumped and wet back.

For Cooke, who has been a wildlife photographer for 11 years, capturing such an elusive creature marked the pinnacle of his career.

“It ranks the ultimate,” he said. “Not just for me, it’s basically the ultimate for most wildlife photographers.”

Photographer Gordon Cooke said he had to adjust his camera quickly in order to capture the wolverine as it crossed the frozen marsh. (Gordon Cooke)

Chris Fisher, an Alberta naturalist, described wolverines as icons of northern forests and mountains. Solitary and fierce, they have been seen battling larger predators, such as bears, wolves, and cougars.

“He’s a desert superhero,” Fisher said Monday on the Calgary Eyeopener. “Honestly, you don’t see them anywhere, let alone a major metropolitan city like Calgary.”

He said a wolverine would wander out of the mountains and into more populated areas once every few years. Over the past decade they have been sighted near Airdrie and Medicine Hat.

LISTEN | Naturalist Chris Fisher talks to CBC Calgary’s Loren McGinnis:

Calgary Eyeopener7:34Calgary Wolverine

We tell you about a rare wildlife sighting in Calgary over the weekend.

Fisher suspects the wolverine seen over the weekend has recently become estranged from her mother, as she will have to take care of new kits this spring.

He hopes the animal will have fewer human encounters in the future.

“I think the best hope for everything is that [the wolverine] avoid people and fix his wild compass on the wilds of Alberta and live a life never to be photographed again,” Fisher said.

Wolverines live solitary lives over vast expanses of land.

Recent research suggests that their numbers in and around national parks along the Alberta-British Columbia border are declining due to a combination of increased human recreation, trapping, and climate change.

Snow is thought to be an important factor in wolverine habitat. A decrease in montane and boreal snow cover could limit the ability of female wolverines to find denning sites to rear their young.

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