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Wolverine hunt continues after sightings in Yellowknife

It appears an elusive wolverine has been hanging around Yellowknife this past week and it has been giving environment department officials the slip.

Wolverine reportedly seen wandering near Yellowknife's William McDonald school, Armed Forces barracks

A wolverine mother carries her kit in this still image from the documentary Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest. Wolverines do not have a history of attacking humans, meaning parents should not be concerned about reports of a wolverine near a school, an Alberta wildlife researcher says. (CBC)

It appears an elusive wolverine has been hanging around Yellowknife this past week and it has been giving environment department officers the slip.

After several wolverine sightings — and a partial lockdown — at William McDonald middle school last week, a trap was set on school property Sunday. By Tuesday, the wolverine appeared to have left the area, and the trap was moved.

Later, a wolverine was seen feasting on some food near the Armed Forces barracks at the airport, where the trap was set up once again.

"It's likely we're dealing with the same wolverine," said Adrian Lizotte, manager of wildlife and environment for the territory's North Slave region. 

"It's making its way around the forested areas near the airport, Kam Lake, some of the forested areas and near William McDonald."

"Wolverines are a pretty intelligent animal. They're a little more difficult to trap. He's making his way through the community." 

Even though the animal may still be in the city, Lizotte said residents shouldn't be worried about a possible wolverine attack. That recommendation fits in with research from Jason Fisher, who's studied wolverine behaviour for the Alberta government. 

"Wolverines make a living by staying out of trouble as best as they can," says Fisher, adding that wolverines are not known to attack humans.

Though wolverines are known to live throughout the Northwest Territories, the territory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources says wildlife officers have responded to only one other sighting of a wolverine in Yellowknife in the past five years.

Fisher has studied wolverines and their behaviour in the Kananaskis, Banff, and Willmore Wilderness Park regions in Alberta. He said they are scavengers by nature and would not want to attack a human — even a child.

"They've evolved to be really good about keeping their noses clean," Fisher said. "I don't see any problem with sending kids off to school with a wolverine around."

This wolverine was spotted last Wednesday afternoon at around 2 p.m. at the new housing development in the Kam Lake industrial area. A wolverine was also seen at Yellowknife's William McDonald middle school last Wednesday. (Joshua Lefneski/Facebook)

This assessment fits with traditional Indigenous knowledge about the animal. Fred Sangris, a Yellowknives Dene trapper, previously told CBC News that Dene history also has no record of wolverine attacks.

But for parents who may still be concerned about their children meeting a wolverine on their walk to school, Fisher provided some tips.

"Exercise the same caution with a wolverine as you would with a stray unknown dog in the area, which is don't send your little ones off alone by themselves," he said. "Have them together in a group.

"This is not a known cause for alarm. It's not an animal where we know it's dangerous and it's out to get you. Let's stick together, use our common sense and let it pass by."

ENR also notes residents can call 867-767-9238 or toll-free at 1-866-762-2437 to report wildlife sightings. 

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