Lonely Planet Writer

Ultra-runners drafted to track wolverines in US wilderness

When a wolverine was photographed in the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah, the US Forest Service launched an effort to document the elusive creature.

Forest rangers employed ultra-runners to search for wolverines.
Forest rangers employed ultra-runners to search for wolverines. Image by NH53 / CC BY 2.0

Known for being a solitary and sometimes ferocious creature, the wolverine is typically difficult to study. Researchers needed a way to get into the deepest parts of the mammal’s habitat without harming the animal or the researchers. The Forest Service teamed up with a Montana-based group called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) to recruit 30 volunteer ultra-runners to traverse the rugged terrain and place 34 camera traps throughout the range. Over six weekends the ultrarunners ran between camera traps, refreshing bait, changing camera batteries and downloading footage.

Although the 3000 nights worth of footage didn’t reveal any wolverines, the cameras did capture mountain lions, elk and black bears. Researchers say the project was a good test-case to be rolled out in other wilderness areas worldwide.

Read more: nationalgeographic.com