When you hear “Wolverine!,” the first thing you think of is:
Right photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/existentialhero/ / CC BY-NC 2.0.
We’re not keeping score, but if we were, we’re guessing that A) Wolverine of the X-Men, and B) the University of Michigan’s mascot would be winning handily over C) Gulo gulo (common name: wolverine).
Wolverines seem to do their best to avoid humans, which may explain their probable low-rated finish in the above informal poll. But in the Sierra Nevada, one Gulo gulo is making his name known and is out cruising for love.
Buddy is the first wolverine definitively sighted in California in nearly a century; the animals were thought to have long gone extinct in the state. All this sadly means that he’s unlikely to find his lucky lady (or ladies; given the opportunity, wolverines can be polygamous).
Unlike other legendary creatures of the wilds (Bigfoot? Loch Ness Monster?), Buddy has been seen by no man, but has been abundantly (and clearly) captured on film. Here he is, apparently taking bait setup in front of a remote video camera:
Although relatively small (averaging about 30 pounds), wolverines are known for their unusual strength and tenacity. They have no natural predators, and willingly take on much larger animals like bears and caribou.
DNA analysis has verified that Buddy is closely related to a wolverine population in Idaho, and is not a holdout from the genetically distinct California population. How Buddy arrived in California is the object of much speculation. Did he stubbornly trek the 800 miles from the Gem State, where wolverine numbers are still strong? Or did he get a lift from planes, trains, and/or automobiles?
Scientists are still guessing. And over at Earthjustice, we’re still guessing on where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will fall on endangered species protections for wolverines. In a legal settlement last June in an Earthjustice case, the FWS agreed to reconsider whether to grant protections for the mammal in the lower-48; the decision is due by December 2010.
While Buddy diligently searches for a lady friend in the woods of Tahoe National Forest, we’ll keep on fighting for him in the courtroom.