Wolverines are tough survivors. They are exposed to harsh, frozen Northwest mountain winters. They are agile climbers, strong diggers, and aren’t afraid of anything.
At Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Ahma the wolverine has proved to be all those things and more in her 15 years of life. She is the second oldest wolverine in human care in the United States. And over the past few weeks, she has faced her biggest challenge yet: having surgery to remove both of her eyes after her animal care team noticed a significant change in her eye color and was diagnosed with a lens luxation.
“A lens luxation is a serious condition that leaves the lens without any moorings and can lead to blindness,” explained Head Veterinarian Dr. Allison Case. “Fortunately, we detected it early in Ahma before it caused her pain.”
Dr. Case and consulting veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Nathan Kice examined the elderly wolverine and made the challenging decision to remove Ahma’s eyes.
Despite completely losing her vision, Ahma has persisted and persevered, and she has inspired those who care for her.
“She couldn’t be more impressive,” said keeper Wendi. “She continues to show calm, cautious behaviors when moving around and is getting more confident in her habitat every day.”
She also seems to be enjoying herself — climbing, storing food, and rolling around in wood wool, one of the wolverine’s favorite enrichment items.
Keepers have taken extra steps to make sure Ahma is comfortable, like adding log bumpers to outer areas of her habitat and pouring chili powder in areas she should avoid. And since she was born at Northwest Trek, she knows animal care routines like the back of her paw.
“Ahma is very smart and is already navigating her space really well,” said Wendi. “She relies heavily on her keen sense of smell. Wolverines can smell prey under 20 feet of snow.”
She also knows her animal care team well by their voices. Keepers have been training Ahma daily for a year, having her climb into a tube where she receives her diet while her team touches her back hips — all practice so she can voluntarily participate in her own health care. That same training also allowed keepers and veterinarians to recently assess her eyes. Ahma is now back with her younger brother Rainier. She was separated from him while she settled in and adjusted. Once they were reunited, keepers say they were playful- rolling around and running together.
“We’re so happy that we can continue to care for her and help make the rest of her life better,” said Wendi.
Watch Ahma’s training following her eye removal: