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Rare sight: Wolverine captured on camera by Sierra hiker

June 7, 2012 |  9:14 am

At first, David Messa was not sure what he had captured on camera while hiking in the High Sierra.

The sun was setting on Day Two of his mid-May hike near Lake Spaulding in Nevada County when he saw a creature running across a small lake that was still mostly covered in snow and ice.

"He was like a bull in a china shop running across that lake. He just probably feared nothing,” Messa told Fox40 in Sacramento. "He was kind of galloping; actually fell through the snow two or three times, turned around and came back, and came across in front of me. I was actually able to get a photo."

Back at his campsite that night, the reality of what he had seen sunk in.

"And I was just ... You know, I'm pretty sure that was a wolverine,” Messa recalled.

Aside from the lone wolf that wanders into California from Oregon, the wolverine is the rarest species of wild mammal in the Golden State.

Back in 2008, a motion sensor camera in the Tahoe National Forest caught images of a wolverine. The California Department of Fish and Game released those pictures, and said it was just the third documented time a live wolverine had been photographed in the state.

Messa's makes four. Wildlife biologists with Fish and Game and the Department of Forestry have verified his photograph, according to the hiker.

“Quite a pleasure to see something like that,” Messa told FOX40. “You know, the first day, I actually saw a bald eagle. I thought, well, is the trip gonna get any better than this?”

One can only imagine what Messa will find on his next camping trip.

"Well, I'm not gonna admit to seeing Bigfoot,” Messa laughs. "Unless I have a really good photo."

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-- Dennis Shanahan, Fox40 Sacramento

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