A tour guide recently managed to catch a few photographs of Yellowstone National Park's rarest animal — the wolverine — as it casually strolled across a snowy road. Nope, it wasn’t Hugh Jackman crawling across the road in yellow lycra, that sight would perhaps be more common.
MacNeil Lyons, the owner of tour company Yellowstone Insight, captured this incredible encounter from the window of his vehicle while given a tour of Yellowstone National Park on March 5.
“My guest said out loud, exactly what I was thinking, ‘Is that a bear?’... For a hot second, we both thought that it might be a young black bear moving away from us, but as it turned and looked over its right shoulder towards us there was no mistaking that the animal was indeed a Wolverine!” Lyons wrote in a Yellowstone Insight Facebook post.
Realizing he had stumbled on a truly remarkable opportunity, he quietly followed the wolverine and managed to capture a few more shots of the animal in its natural element.
To give you an idea of how fortunate this image is: Yellowstone National Park is around 8,991 square kilometers (5,586 square miles) in size and home to no more than six or seven wolverines, according to a National Parks Service survey carried out from 2006-2009.
The encounter was also captured on video by Carl Kemp who was on Lyon's tour. Kemp wrote on Youtube that according to Lyon the wolverine was around 30 pounds and looked more curious than afraid.
Wolverine populations are currently known in the North Cascades Range in Washington; the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming; and a small portion of Oregon around Wallowa Range, as well as Alaska, Canada, northern parts of some Nordic countries, and Russia. However, capturing one on camera is tricky wherever you may be in the world because the species is also notoriously shy and elusive, tending to avoid human contact at all costs.
You might not believe it by looking at them, but wolverines are actually part of the same family as weasels, otters, ferrets, martens, and minks. Despite their shyness, they are ferocious predators and live on a diet of mostly small mammals such as rabbits and rodents. They are also known to scavenge large animals such as caribou and elk in the tougher winter months.
The species' scientific name, Gulo gulo, stems from the Latin for “glutton". Other languages are equally unforgiving with their treatment of the humble wolverine: the Hungarian name is ''rozsomák'' or ''torkosborz'', which means "gluttonous badger" and the German name is ''Vielfrass'', which roughly translates as "devours much".