Searching for the Wolverines of Mongolia

Where would you go to track down the largest weasel known to man, the wolverine? Don’t forget to take into consideration its sharp teeth and claws, its fierce hunting abilities, and its propensity for remote environments.

National Geographic grantee Gregg Trenish and his team decided to travel to a vast region in northern Mongolia know as the Darhad, to learn as much as possible about the powerfully built, and well-adapted for winter, wolverine. Specifically, they are gathering DNA evidence to analyze so that, in the end, a conservation plan can be created for these creatures. The challenges involved in tracking this elusive creature include: driving across a frozen river, skiing in snow that has the consistency of sugar, carrying your food, and ensuring you have the correct paperwork for border crossings.

The last few days, the team reports, they have been tremendously successful at locating scat and hairs from the wolverine. As team member Jim Harris says, “It’s really exciting to find that much wolverine evidence…We’ve seen tracks everyday and found wolverine scat everyday. It’s beyond anyone’s expectations.”

Some biologists, prior to this excursion, felt that this region, when compared to similar environments in North America, did not contain as many wild creatures. But, as expedition member and environmental scientist Rebecca Watters observes, “…an hour into our first day tracking we are seeing a lot of signs of other wildlife. Gregg found some lynx track, and we’re seeing lots of wolf [tracks], fox [tracks], and tons of hair. We also saw a lot of ptarmigan (the actual birds, not the tracks). Found couple of kill sites, where …musk deer had been killed and dragged away.”

In addition the successful animal interactions, the team also has been experiencing the hospitality and wildlife knowledge of the nomadic people of the Darhad. “When we were coming up Jigleg Pass, we stopped and had tea with a herder,” Watters says, “He told me he had seen wolverine tracks up Jigleg Pass during the winter and here’s the wolverine! So, this validates to me that Mongolians really, really know their wildlife well, and there’s a lot we can learn from asking them.”

Follow the team on their daily blog.
Teachers can also use these seven standards-based lessons for students.

Amy Bucci is a web producer for National Geographic. Her projects mainly cover National Geographic explorers, grantees and initiatives.
  • Kent Madin

    We at Boojum Expeditions are happy to be providing the critical resupplies by Russian jeep, horse and reindeer for the researchers as the circumnavigate the Darhad Depression.

  • Kurt Sanderson

    Way to go Gregg and company! Looks to be an exciting expedition with positive wolverine sign.

  • Thomas Andrillon

    I have Wolverine HD footage from somewhere in Mongolia.
    Let me know

  • M raimi

    Go Blue!

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media