There are thought to be only 300 wolverines in the US and less than 20 in Washington state, where the elusive animals are generally limited to the Cascades mountain range, reports CNN. That's probably why state wildlife officials struggled to believe a woman's claim that she saw a wolverine enjoying a meal on a Pacific coast beach over the weekend—until she presented a photo. The image taken May 23 (see it here) shows a wolverine, which belongs to the weasel family, munching on the carcass of a marine animal that had washed ashore on Long Beach Peninsula. "It's special and noteworthy," Jeff Lewis of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife tells CNN. "This is way outside the beaten path for the wolverines," who usually prefer cold and snow.
Lewis says another resident snapped photos of a wolverine—"something like a cross between a dog, a bear, and a skunk," per the Chinook Observer—walking on a road east of Long Beach Peninsula on May 20. "Given the oddball nature of these observations, it seems likely this is the same animal," he notes. "It's not near the habitats they are usually at." It's normal for juvenile wolverines to seek out new territory, and this one is thought to be a young female. But Lewis worries about its chances of survival "in an area way more densely populated than where it is used to." He hopes residents continue to document the wolverine's movements. As the Observer notes, "to catch even a glimpse of one is a once-in-a-lifetime chance that few can hope to experience." (Read more Washington state stories.)