Jump in reported wolverine sightings, says N.W.T. gov't

Reports of wolverine sightings spiked over the last year, according to the Northwest Territories government.

1 wolverine recently caught wandering the halls at Diavik Diamond Mine camp

Four wolverines got stuck in a bin at the Yellowknife dump in November. The bin was driven 50 kilometres out of town, where the animals were set free. (Submitted by the N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources)

Reports of wolverine sightings have spiked over the last year, according to the Northwest Territories government.

"It's up, like, a lot," Adrian Lizotte, a manager with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said of the sightings.

"Last year we didn't have any. The year before, I think we had one in [Yellowknife] city limits," he said.

Last week, in the wee hours of the morning, a curious wolverine was caught on camera wandering the hallway to a dormitory at Diavik Diamond Mine.

Mine workers lured it into a live trap with a can of sardines.

Once caught, the trapped creature was hauled onto a helicopter and flown about 100 kilometres away from the camp, where it was released back into the wild.

"They handled it really well," said Lizotte of the mine staff's response.

When it comes to wildlife encounters, the department recommends doing whatever possible to preserve the animal's life.

These ones were really healthy-looking, really fat.- Adrian Lizotte, manager Department of Environment and Natural Resources

"If it becomes a safety risk, sometimes the quick, easy way is just to put it down," he said. "But in this situation they had a live trap on site, used that, and then got it out of harm's way."

As far as Lizotte knows, no wolverines have returned to the camp since.

With the food smells and other attractive odours, it's not uncommon for a wolverine to happen onto a campsite, said Lizotte.

The animals are "opportunistic," he said, and they enjoy a "free meal."

But for reasons Lizotte could not explain, there have been many more reports of wolverine sightings in the last year than in years previous.

Dumpster diving

In November 2018, four wolverines wandered into the Yellowknife dump, jumped into a large trash bin and couldn't climb out.

Workers picked up the bin, drove it about 50 kilometres out of town, and let the dumpster divers go.

"These ones were really healthy-looking, really fat," said Lizotte.

"There was that, and then there were some more situations at Gahcho Kue Mine, and I believe Ekati [Diamond Mine] had an instance as well," he added. "So we are seeing a lot more wolverine sightings this year than normal."

Carl Williams has been a trapper in the North since the age of 12. Over the decades, he's caught lots of wolverines.

"I have no idea how many," he said.

A photo of a mother wolverine with her kits. There has been an increase in the number of wolverine sightings in the Northwest Territories over the past year. (CBC)

In the last four or five years, Williams has noticed a greater wolverine presence around Yellowknife.

"I remember years ago here … a lot of times you wouldn't see a wolverine track. Now they're all over the place," he said.

"I don't know why that is."

Wolverines aren't hard to catch, said Williams, but they get rowdy in a trap.

"When they're in the trap, they jump at you and growl and snarl and yeah, it's quite a sight," he said.

But when they're free, wolverines are scared of humans and will run away at the sight of one. Williams has never heard of a wolverine attacking a person.

They are, however, relentless on a trapline.

"They rip lynx and marten and fox, whatever, out of your traps," said Williams. If an animal's head is caught in the trap, he said a wolverine will chew it off to release the body.

"As an animal," he said, "they're pretty neat."