The first wolverine found in North Dakota in almost 150 years was shot and killed by a rancher who thought it was threatening his livestock.
The rancher told authorities that the animal had come into his pasture and harassed his cows. Although North Dakota occasionally receives unconfirmed reports of wolverine sightings, the last verified wolverine in the state was found in a fur trading record in 1870, according to the Helena Independent Journal.
Ranch hand Jared Hatter posted pictures of the animal's body on his Facebook page, and said that the creature was threatening the ranch's livestock, making the kill legal. Under North Dakota's hunting laws, the wolverine is considered a furbearer with a closed season. However, according to state furbearer biologist Stephanie Tucker, another law in the state allows archers to shoot animals that threaten their livestock.
Tucker said that Hatter felt the wolverine was a threat because it had snuck into his calving pasture and the cows had surrounded it.
The wolverine, known by wildlife officials as "M56," had previously gained attention from biologists for wandering long distances, according to the Huffington Post. M56, a male wolverine, had traveled around 500 miles from Wyoming to Colorado in 2009.
After M56's tracking collar stopped transmitting in 2012, the animal continued to wander -- the North Dakota ranch where he was shot was around 700 miles away from his last known location. Wolverines typically live 6-10 years, and an analysis of M56's body suggested that he was 8 or 9 years old.
Wolverines, which resemble small bears, are known for their aggression, and will eat almost anything, dead or alive. In 2014, the U.S. government declined a push to add wolverines to the endangered and threatened species list.
Rebecca Watters, who runs a blog about wolverines, expressed her sadness at M56's passing. "He was a genuinely famous wolverine, people were inspired by his story," said Watters.
“It could have just naturally expired and we would have never known its fate, but now we know that much more about the animal and how far it eventually did travel,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Spokesman Matt Robbins. “I think [...] seeing that this animal lived as long as it did and traveled as far as it did [...] does help validate the reports of what these animals are capable of.”
"He had a good run."