Yellowstone Guide Spots 13 Wolverines Chasing Grizzlies

Yellowstone Guide Spots 13 Wolverines Chasing Grizzlies

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Yellowstone Guide Spots 13 Wolverines Chasing Grizzlies

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This image shows the wolverines crossing the lower snowfield. None of us had thought to take photos sooner as we all we in disbelief of what we were seeing. The circled groups left to right: First; Two. Second; A Jill or Angeline with two kits (although not obvious in the photo, I know this from personal observation. There was a second Angeline with two kits as well but I am unable to discern where they are in the photos). Third; Three. Fourth; Two. Fifth; One. Sixth; One. The Seventh or right most is the Grizzly sow with three Cub of the Year. © Doug MacCartney www.YellowstoneInsight.com

A Yellowstone National Park guide was treated to the encounter of a lifetime during a recent backpacking trip in the Teton wilderness back in early August.

It’s extremely rare to see one wolverine in the wilderness, but he and a fellow backpacker spotted at least 13 wolverines congregated in the high alpine foraging for food.

The wolverines were even spotted chasing off multiple grizzlies in the area.

Read the full report by Doug MacCartney as shared by Yellowstone Insight:

“While hiking in the Teton Wilderness, my two companions (Steve and Bill) and I planned to summit a particular peak of interest to us. We left our campsite for our four mile route to the summit.

As we headed through the big bowl on the summits western side. Our traverse was almost flat. There was a band of snow we would have to ascend. We chose our spot and headed for it. As we approached I noticed a grizzly sow with two COY (Cubs Of the Year) leaving a spit of snow a few hundred yards east of our spot. We started climbing the snow field while keeping an eye on the bears. The bear family got spread out in a line and we noticed that she had not two, but three COY in tow.

These are both Bill’s photos of the wolverines in the upper snowfield. His phone had higher resolution allowing the ability to see more shape and color of the wolverines. Again two on the left and at least five on the right. © Doug MacCartney www.YellowstoneInsight.com

Suddenly Bill noticed that the bears were running. I looked to see why and notice a wolverine leaving the top of a big rock going in the bear’s direction. I then spotted another wolverine running toward the bears and then another. Bill and Steve thought I was crazy till they saw them too.

Then I saw another group of wolverines, a mother and two kits. It looked like the wolverines were chasing the bears for quite a while. But when the bears took an easier route out of the bowl along a rocky ledge, the growing group of wolverines went up into a higher snowfield and it was there that half of the wolverines continued up in the vertical rock face on the right side of the snow field while the rest crossed left on the snowfield and went up the vertical rock face to the left side.

It was very hard for us to keep track of all of the wolverines and the bears as they fled the area. I counted, for sure, a total of TWELVE wolverine at one time! Steve said he counted THIRTEEN which I don’t doubt (especially after looking at the photos).

These are both Bill’s photos of the wolverines in the upper snowfield. His phone had higher resolution allowing the ability to see more shape and color of the wolverines. Again two on the left and at least five on the right. © Doug MacCartney www.YellowstoneInsight.com

The route the bears took looked crazy but the routes the wolverines took looked insane. Some had gained 1000’ and were nearing the summit in five or ten minutes before we could no longer follow their movements against the rock face anymore. We were just about to continue on with our hike when I noticed another sow grizzly with two yearling cubs. They were traversing the lower snowfield in the same direction as the first grizzly family had.

We couldn’t believe what we had just seen. We were all pumped up and in awe by what we had just witnessed.”

After some consultations regarding this very unique visual into the wildness, a regional expert on wolverines, Jeff Copeland, ponders if this event represents wolverines congregating in higher elevations with a focus on eating Army cutworm moths, as we know grizzly bears do. Jeff went on to say that they have documented wolverines consuming white bark pine nuts (as do grizzly and black bears) in the high elevation mountains.

Dr. James Halfpenny, another local expert on such things mentioned to me that he wondered if there might have been one or more animal carcasses in the vicinity that drew the attention of the wolverines and bears. And lastly, it is not unusual as it was once thought, that wolverines at times can be quite gregarious. But with that said, 12-13 wolverines seen at the same time, on the same mountain, congregated together is quite unbelievably phenomenal.

This image shows the wolverines crossing the lower snowfield. None of us had thought to take photos sooner as we all we in disbelief of what we were seeing. The circled groups left to right: First; Two. Second; A Jill or Angeline with two kits (although not obvious in the photo, I know this from personal observation. There was a second Angeline with two kits as well but I am unable to discern where they are in the photos). Third; Three. Fourth; Two. Fifth; One. Sixth; One. The Seventh or right most is the Grizzly sow with three Cub of the Year. © Doug MacCartney www.YellowstoneInsight.com
This was a moment that will likely not repeat itself. I am glad that my good friend was able to document it with his phone. Thank you Doug for allowing me to share this moment in time.

If you appreciate this moment in nature and are curious about exploring Yellowstone, please give us a call and set up your private tour with one of our amazing staff! For more information about the tours we can offer you, check our website ~ www.YellowstoneInsight.com

All Images Credit: Doug MacCartney

Wolverine Stock Image: Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash 

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