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Calgary wildlife photographer captures elusive wolverine photos

Gordon Cooke was out shooting photos this past Saturday, as he usually does on his days off, but he never suspected he’d get a wildlife shot like this.

Cooke, who has been shooting wildlife photos for the past 11 years, was in south Calgary when he captured rare photos of a wolverine.

He was out early in the morning expecting to shoot ospreys as they’re returning to the Calgary area. Cooke wasn’t having any luck finding any ospreys, so he started shooting a crow building a nest in the area, branch by branch.  

“I started to take pictures of them and all sudden I heard this ‘crash, bang’ right in the marsh next to me,” Cooke told LiveWire Calgary.

“It was a wolverine.”  

He saw the white hairs, and at first thought it could be a porcupine. But it was too fast to be a porcupine, Cooke said.

Cooke said after that he just started shooting.

“It was both awe and both fear at the same time. Not fear of the animal, fear I wasn’t getting the shot,” he said.

The ferocious animal can defend itself and its food from larger predators like wolves and bears due to its muscular body and sharp teeth.  According to an information page from the Alberta government open data set, the wolverine’s status is undetermined because it’s “data deficient.”

“The Alberta population is considered to be declining at an unknown rate because the range and distribution of harvest have decreased significantly since trapping records have been kept, independent of harvest effort and fur price,” a two-page briefing reads.

“The current provincial wolverine population is roughly estimated at fewer than 1000 breeding individuals.”

The Alberta Wilderness Association published a webpage in February 2023 talking about the lack of data on the animal.

Incredibly fortunate: Cooke

Calgary wildlife photographer Gordon Cooke captured rare photos of a wolverine in south Calgary. COURTESY GORDON COOKE

Cooke, who has lived in Calgary for the past 10 years, having moved from New Brunswick, shoots regularly. He grew up with hunting and fishing and being in the outdoors in nature is much of the enjoyment, he said.

“I used to hunt and fish when I was younger. I loved that. So, this is like the same feeling. It’s just a different result,” Cooke said.

“(Hunting) does serve a purpose, but it’s just that once you look at an animal through a lens, I couldn’t do it now.”

He’s hoping to retire soon so he can shoot some more – photos.

He’s been all over Calgary’s parks, and out into the mountains. Cooke has gone out to Jasper to shoot the elk rut. He posts many of his wildlife photos to his website and on social media.

Cooke said the wolverine is the ultimate capture on film. He said they’re so elusive. After he’d shot the photos, he was hoping that he landed a great shot. Cooke said he didn’t have time to change the settings on the camera to ensure a crisp, clean shot. He managed to capture stunning images.

He went out the following day – again to find the ospreys – on the off chance he’d run into the wolverine once more.

No luck. But Cooke realizes the special opportunity he did have to see one of nature’s rarest finds.

“That’s the ultimate I would say. Probably, I would say this is the ultimate in North America,” he said.