Carl Kemp and his daughter, Maya, couldn’t believe their eyes. Neither could their seasoned Yellowstone tour guide, MacNeil Lyons.
They were on a Yellowstone Insight tour on March 5 when they spotted a wolverine lumbering along a road inside the national park.
“After an already amazing day in the park, filled with wolves, bears, mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, golden eagles and more, we turned around to make our way back, when I saw what I thought was a black bear running down the road,” Kemp wrote on YouTube, where he posted a video of the “super rare” sighting.
“As soon as it turned, we realized we were in the middle of a once in a lifetime experience,” he wrote.
Lyons, who has been guiding for more than 20 years, also called it a “once in a lifetime experience.”
“I am still a little speechless,” Lyons posted on Facebook. “…It was only 2-3 minutes, but it was as if time stood still. There was for sure a true and focused connection between two sentient beings.”
At last count there were only seven wolverines — five male and two female — roaming the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park and adjoining forests. But those numbers date back to 2009.
“Wolverines are so rarely seen and inhabit such remote terrain at low densities that assessing population trends is difficult and sudden declines could go unnoticed for years,” the national park service explains.
Lyons took some incredible images of the encounter just before noon on a cold winter day.
“We rounded the corner heading westbound and in the on coming lane was a low-to-the-ground, dark animal loping away from us,” he explained. “My guest said out loud, exactly what I was thinking, “Is that a bear?”… For a hot second, we both thought that it might be a young black bear moving away from us, but as it turned and looked over its right shoulder towards us – there was no mistaking that the animal was indeed, a Wolverine!”
With no other vehicles around they were able to spend about three minutes taking photos and video out the window of the running vehicle.
“The wolverine was curious for a bit,” Lyons added. “It jumped onto the snow berm adjacent our lane twice and returned to the road to size us up as our vehicle was stopped, idle.”
But when another car approached from behind, the wolverine bounded up a steep hill. He managed to get a few more shots before the animal vanished into the wilderness.
“Were very blessed to be there, at the exact moment to witness this rare animal before it scampered back into the dense evergreen forest that parallels that stretch of Yellowstone’s road corridor,” Lyons added.
Wyoming Wildlife Advocates called the sighting “absolutely amazing.”
“This is an incredible sighting of a wolverine in Yellowstone!” the group said. “There are likely fewer than ten wolverines in all of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Absolutely amazing that not only did these folks witness this rare sighting, but got to enjoy seeing it for a while.”
Kemp remains in awe of being in the presence of such an elusive creature.
“It looked at us several times before bounding up the hill,” he wrote. “After giving us one more inquisitive look from the top of the hill (where MacNeil got some AMAZING shots) it disappeared into the Yellowstone’s deep evergreen forest, and left us all with a memory we will never forget.”
Photos: Yellowstone Insight/Facebook