Washington, March 8 : Scientists have claimed that a photograph of an animal, clicked by a university student from the US, depicts the North American wolverine, whose presence has not been confirmed in California since the 1920s.
Katie Moriarty, the student who clicked the photograph in the Tahoe National Forest, a California state park, is a wildlife biology student from the Oregon State University.
Katie clicked the picture when she was conducting research on another carnivore called the American marten in the Tahoe National Forest.
When a remote-controlled camera she set, photographed the animal on February 28, 2008, Forest Service scientists, who are experts at detecting rare carnivores, determined that the photographed animal is a wolverine.
The North American wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family. Adult males weigh 26 to 40 pounds, while females are 17 to 26 pounds. It resembles a small bear, with a bushy tail and broad head. Its diet includes carrion, small animals, birds, insects and berries.
U.S. populations are found largely in the Northern Cascades in Washington, and Northern Rockies in Montana and Idaho. The nearest known resident population is about 900 miles north of the Tahoe National Forest in Northern Washington.
According to Bill Zielinski, a Forest Service scientist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station, attempts have been made for decades to photograph wolverines in California.
Though periodic sightings have occurred, but they have never been scientifically confirmed using detection methods that produce verifiable evidence.
Scientists will now conduct further detection analysis on the Tahoe National Forest using remote-controlled cameras and barbed wire snares that snag hair. They may also use dogs trained to find wolverine scat.
According to Zielinski, hair and scat samples would contain DNA that can be analyzed to determine where the animal originated.
"We have good genetic templates from populations that have been studied elsewhere that can be used to understand the origin of this animal," said Zielinski. "But, first we need a DNA sample," he added.