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North Dakota just saw its first confirmed wolverine in a long time

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A wolverine spotted in North Dakota became the first confirmed sighting of the animal in the state in more than a century.

Stephanie Tucker, of North Dakota Game and Fish Department, told KFGO the last time a wolverine was confirmed in North Dakota was in the late 1800s.

“This is the first verified report of a wolverine in the state in modern times,” Tucker told Forum News Service, saying they get unconfirmed reports frequently.

It was seen by a ranch hand in western North Dakota, but the man said on Facebook he saw the wolverine "tormenting" come cows and had to shoot it.

In North Dakota, wolverines are listed as "furbearers" with a closed season – meaning you can't hunt them. But state law allows them to be killed if they're threatening livestock, Forum News Service says. While they're rare in North Dakota, wolverines are not considered endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

North Dakota officials plan to conduct a necropsy (an animal autopsy) on the wolverine to find out more about where it came from, how old it was and what it ate, according to reports. Tucker thinks it probably made its way to the Alexandria farm from Montana, where there have been wolverine sightings lately, KFGO says.

The 'elusive' wolverine

Wolverines, which are an "elusive member" of the weasel family and resemble a small bear with a bushy tail, are typically found in Alaska and Canada, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But they also are known to live and breed in the mountainous areas of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming (see a map here).

Wolverines were nearly wiped out in the lower 48 states in the early 1900s due to trapping, poisoning and hunting, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the animal has made a "steady recovery" in the past half-century.

But the exact range of wolverines is hard to determine because they live in "remote and inhospitable" areas that are away from humans, and the animal typically moves long distances in short periods of time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

There's no evidence wolverines ever had established populations in the Great Lakes region, despite sightings in the 1800 and 1900s, the agency notes. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website says the animal used to live in far northeastern Minnesota until the early 1900s.

The last verified sighting of a wolverine in Minnesota was more than 50 years ago, Forum News Service says, with state officials noting there is no evidence of breeding in the state.

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