Elusive Wolverine Filmed in Yellowstone Park in Incredibly Rare Footage

One of the rarest animals in Yellowstone has been captured on camera by visitors to the national park.

The video, posted by Carl Kemp to YouTube, shows a wolverine walking across a tarmac road through the park, which is surrounded by snow-covered hills and trees.

The footage offers a rare glimpse of the wolverine, which is an extremely uncommon sight in Yellowstone.

The latest population estimate of wolverines in Yellowstone took place between 2006 and 2009. It showed there were seven wolverines in the park—five females and two males. The animals cover large areas in the search for food, with individual ranges spanning up to 350 square miles in and around the park.

The video showed the wolverine scampering along the road before walking up a snow-covered hill and into a bank of trees as onlookers express their amazement at the encounter. "He's coming our way!" one person says in the video as the wolverine appears to move towards them.

The clip later showed a close-up of the paw prints left embedded in the snow by the wolverine.

"As soon as it turned, we realized we were in the middle of a once in a lifetime experience," Kemp said in the video description on YouTube. "It looked at us several times before bounding up the hill."

Kemp said the footage was shot on March 5 as part of a tour in the park with nature guide MacNeil Lyons of the Yellowstone Insight company.

Wolverines are especially evolved to survive in the freezing temperatures and scarce resources of the park in winter. The animals, which can grow up to 47 inches long and weigh over 30 pounds, are highly efficient scavengers, using their powerful jaws and strong, sharp teeth to rip into frozen carcasses found in winter.

Wolverines are usually solitary animals. One study published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology found the population density of wolverines in the Canadian Rocky Mountains was between three and four individuals per 621 square miles

While worldwide the animals are not considered endangered or vulnerable, the U.S. population was reduced substantially during the 19th and 20th centuries by hunting and trapping. It is estimated there are fewer than 400 wolverines left today in the U.S. outside of Alaska.

As with other animals in the park, climate change threatens the species. Wolverines make dens in snow drifts where they give birth and nurse their young, but these could be threatened amid declining annual snowpack in the park documented by the NPS.

Stock image of a wolverine.
Stock image of a wolverine. The animals are rarely seen by humans and can go unnoticed in Yellowstone for years. slowmotiongli/Getty Images