By: Danny Schmidt & Victoria Ortiz
In February of 2014, a remotely triggered camera in Utah’s rugged Uinta mountains captured a picture of something no one thought possible in the area: a wolverine. This elusive creature hadn’t been spotted here for nearly 40 years. This one photograph set in motion a massive undertaking to find if these badasses of the animal kingdom were setting up shop here for good. Under the guidance of Adventure Scientists, ultrarunners took to the mountains setting up and checking camera traps around the ecosystem in search of more photographic evidence.
Danny Schmidt captured this process in Running Wild, a short documentary recently selected by the Wild and Scenic Film Festival for their 2017 lineup.
The Uinta Mountains are a place of superlatives: This is home to Utah's highest peak, its largest wilderness area, and the tallest east-west mountain range in the lower 48. With extensive alpine high country and more than 1,000 lakes, it hosts wildlife including bighorn sheep, black bear and mountain lion.
Little current data existed about the abundance of wolverines across the Uintas. Through a partnership with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and with support from the National Forest Foundation, ASC completed the Uinta Carnivore Survey in the summer of 2015, managing dedicated volunteers who monitored remote camera stations throughout the Uinta range.
Get the full story behind the video on National Geographic and learn how you can become an Adventure Scientist by checking out our current projects.
Big cats are magnificent, powerful creatures, with incredible stealth and hunting prowess. Their populations are in decline worldwide, caused by habitat loss and conflict with humans.
"More humans populate the planet than ever before, encroaching further and further into previously natural areas," according to the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative. "When human and big cat populations collide, the big cats typically lose."
The more we know about these magnificent, powerful animals, the better served the conservation community will be to protect them. Here are a few of the big cats ASC has captured on camera traps and tracked, informing our research partners from Utah to Costa Rica.
By Emily Stifler Wolfe
When Brittany Ingalls and Caitlin Pennington first tried to set up their camera trap near the 10,767-foot Bear Lake, the trail was impassible, blocked by thick deadfall.
“We crawled through a quarter mile of blowdown, under and over [fallen trees],” Ingalls recalls of their adventure in the High Uintas Wilderness. “It was general mayhem trying to get through, and there was no way to do it quickly.” Reassessing, they decided to set up the camera in a more accessible spot.
Our 30 remote Uinta cameras have since captured hundreds of images of moose, bobcat, marten and others living in this beautiful corner of northeastern Utah. The volunteer teams have visited their research stations on three occasions, changing the batteries and bait, and retrieving SD cards.
“It’s been interesting to go back to these places multiple times... to watch as the foliage changes over and different wildflowers come in," Ingalls said. “It feels good to be contributing to a larger body of research, and I’ve learned a lot personally. It’s been an awesome experience.”
Black Bear Sow and Cubs
A black bear sow and her two cubs try to pull the bait off a tree with no luck. The bait is a beef bone covered in a delightful substance called Gusto. Its secret ingredient? Skunk anal glands.
Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will hunt when given the opportunity—day or night. They eat small game such as rodents, rabbits and fish, larger animals like deer, and when those aren't available, insects, snakes, fruit and grass.
Wildlife and Solitude in the High Uintas
By Dory Trimble
ASC Uintas Adventurer
Our day starts in the water. The rocks are slick, brown, unreliable against our feet. We’ll cross this river—the East Fork of Black’s Fork—another half-dozen times before we return to dry socks and our tents at dusk.
My shoes are already sodden from morning dew, so I step into the water and let it course ice cold around my ankles, sometimes past my knees. When we emerge into the bluebells on the other side, I take a moment to grasp my legs and feel the fierce, blinding burn of cold on my bare skin. It passes into a soothing kind of numbness, and we hike uphill to drier footholds, talking and laughing and listening to birdsong in the trees.
In Search of Lynx and Wolverines in the Uinta Mountains
By Grace Kay Matelich
ASC Media Coordinator
Our planet is home to more than 7 billion people and 8.7 million known species. 5,416 of those species are mammals. As humans, we often see ourselves as the highest on the food chain: Disease and disaster are our only modern predators.
But at a trophic level, we are not apex predators.
Apex predators are vital to an ecosystem as they control population numbers of lower class predators and herbivores, keeping them from overpopulating and destroying native plant life.
According to Caroline Fraser, a writer for Yale Environment 360, “the loss of these predators is a “global decapitation of the systems that support life on earth.”
And the ripples of population decline in this class of predators go beyond the disruption of the natural balance of our ecosystems—they can also increase the occurrence of some diseases.
Canada lynx and the North American wolverine are two of our more elusive neighbors. Both of these apex predators thrive in boreal forest, or taiga, and exist in metapopulations—sprawling populations that seldom interact with one another.
While strength may lie in numbers, there is nothing feeble about the sight of the lone lynx or wolverine commanding his or her terrain. The lynx’s signature stare is enough to stop any man in his tracks, and the wolverine is famed for its ferocious constitution.
Habitat fragmentation in the form of roads, highways, and subdivision poses a major threat to lynx and wolverines, because connectivity between isolated populations is crucial to both species’ survival.
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