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Wolverines, snow leopards surveyed in Mongolia

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BOZEMAN – A month-long expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Expeditions Council has returned from the mountains of northern Mongolia, where it collected data for a winter wildlife survey in the Darhad Region. The team documented wolverines and snow leopards, a rare species previously thought eradicated from the ecosystem.

Called The Ring of Darhad Expedition, the group of five set out on March 27 to search for hair, tracks and scat of wolverines and 20 other species. Thousands of students and educators followed them through updates from the team during its 400-mile circumnavigation of the Darhad Valley.

The Darhad Region is the southern extent of the wolverines’ range in Mongolia, and researchers want to learn more about the species’ populations in the area.

“Now we have a definite indication that there are wolverines in the areas where we found tracks,” said expedition member Rebecca Watters, a leading wolverine researcher in Mongolia. “We now have a better idea of where to set up camera traps and hair snares for later research.”

Finding what could be snow leopard tracks is considered an incredible discovery for the team, as many researchers believed the elusive cat had been driven out of the region. Prior to the expedition, there were accounts of snow leopards from local herders and hunters, but no DNA or track evidence to bolster this claim.

The team also identified the tracks of wolves, lynx, moose, fox and deer, as well as spotting several ptarmigan. The expedition leader, Gregg Treinish, is Executive Director of the Bozeman-based Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.

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