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'Extremely rare' wolverine sighting made in south Calgary park

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Wolverines are rare even in the places they're known to live but in Calgary city limits, they're unheard-of.

Which explains why it took experienced wildlife photographer Gordon Cooke a few moments to figure out what he was looking at.

"I thought it might have been a porcupine," Cooke said.

"It's going too fast. It's too loud to be a porcupine. It was too large, too."

He was trying to capture shots of returning ospreys when he first heard the crashing in the bush next to the marsh he was staking out around 8 a.m. Saturday.

"And this thing just kind of broke into the open there and I finally saw it and it's still not quite registering what it was until it stopped and posed," Cooke said.

At least two others managed to get pictures of the wolverine in separate sightings between Friday and Saturday.

Although some people online are figuring out where the rare creature was spotted, the photographers are keeping the location quiet in hopes of discouraging a mad rush to spot it.

At one time, wolverines lived on the prairie, but the species has a notoriously low tolerance for human activity and there have been only a handful of sightings over the past 100 years.

"So it's probably young, my guess would be male, but we don't know. And it's doing what any young animal does, you know, it's striking out on its own looking for food, looking for mates, looking for a territory," said Aerin Jacob, director of science and research at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

"They are extremely rare. They take a very long time to breed. And so we need to do everything in our power to make sure that Wolverine is able to get to a safe place."

Jacob says although some have been documented covering thousands of kilometres looking for a home range, many breeding-age females will refuse to cross major roads, limiting their ability to reoccupy available habitat.

Cooke says he's thrilled at his good fortune, and the handful of crisp photos he was able to snap.

Knowing how improbable the sighting was, he confesses he considered keeping it to himself if the shots had been out of focus.

"You might was well say 'unicorn' or 'elephant' or anything, you know, in Calgary, because its getting the same reaction," Cooke said with a laugh.

If you see a wolverine or can positively identify their tracks, researchers would like to hear about it at https://www.wolverinewatch.org.

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