And no, we’re not talking Hugh Jackman, but the original wolverine – an animal that hasn’t been seen in this region for over 30 years.
Wolverines are rare. Sightings are far rarer, which is due to both their reclusive nature and their threatened numbers in general. Two Oregon anglers got the viewing of a lifetime along the Columbia River near Portland on Monday, though, as they spotted the elusive carnivore for themselves.
“Photos of the wolverine taken by the anglers were shared with staff from Cascadia Wild, a local non-profit organization conducting community science wildlife surveys for wolverine on Mt. Hood, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff,” the department (ODFW) shares in their media release.
As ODFW emphasizes, “This is the first confirmed report of a wolverine outside of the Wallowa Mountains in over 30 years.” Take a look:
The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is exceptionally rare, and listed as threatened in the state of Oregon. In general, these carnivores are the largest member of the weasel family and superficially resemble a small grizzly bear.
As rare as they are, ODFW wildlife biologists organized a visit to the site of the observation with Cascadia Wild staff the morning of Tues, March 21. The location and date of the photos were verified. Then, a search of the area resulted in the discovery of a set of wolverine tracks. Unfortunately, the lone wanderer didn’t leave any hair or DNA evidence behind.
Wolverine Sighting Sparks Excitement in Oregon Biologists
“Given the proximity to Portland, we were very surprised when this report came in and elated when we were able to verify the sighting,” offers ODFW District Wildlife Biologist Dave Keiter.
“We really appreciate the people who reported this rare occurrence. And Cascadia Wild who helped us confirm the report and begin monitoring efforts,” Keiter continues.
To follow up, ODFW and Cascadia Wild are deploying two non-invasive monitoring stations to track the wolverine. Each consists of a motion-detecting camera and a hair-collecting device with a strong-smelling attractant.
“The cameras, which have cellular capability, will allow ODFW to verify if the wolverine is still present in the area,” the dept. continues. And if the wolverine deposits hair on the hair-collecting device, a DNA sample could identify the individual from samples collected elsewhere. This would provide valuable data on the elusive species’ population genetics – including where this fellow came from.
Where’d He Come From?
“It is likely that this animal was dispersing. The habitat in the area doesn’t meet the life history requirements of wolverines,” ODFW explains. Wolverines can travel over 30 miles in a single day. So it is possible – and likely – this individual in the photographs is already far off.
As ODFW continues to monitor the area, they’re also asking for public help. “Unique wildlife observations can happen anywhere,” the dept. says. “And community science is an important part of monitoring and conservation efforts.”
“Some of the best information on wildlife can come from regular people who are paying attention to what they see,” Teri Lysak, wolverine tracking coordinator with Cascadia Wild, emphasizes. “Many thanks to the couple who saw this animal and took the time to share it with us.”
If you spot a wolverine in the area, contact Cascadia Wild’s Wolverine Tracking Project.