PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the first time in more than three decades, a rare and threatened wolverine was spotted west of the Wallowa Mountains, near the Columbia River in Portland.
While fishing the river Monday morning, two anglers reported seeing the wolverine. Officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the sighting the following day after locating tracks near the river.
“Given the proximity to Portland, we were very surprised when this report came in and elated when we were able to verify the sighting,” said 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.”
Wildlife officials suspect the wolverine is long gone as they can travel over 30 miles in a single day. Despite the “relatively low” chances the small bear-like animal is still in Portland, ODFW and Cascadia Wildlife set up monitoring systems and a hair-collecting device in the area in case the wolverine is still wandering around. If strands of the wolverine’s hair and DNA are collected, wildlife officials said it could be used to trace where the animal came from.
Canada and Alaska have the greatest number of wolverines, while Washington state, Montana, Idaho and Oregon are home to a smaller population. For that reason, wildlife officials believe this particular wolverine was “dispersing as the habitat in the area doesn’t meet the life history requirements of wolverines.”
Wolverines were believed to be extirpated from Oregon by 1936, however, there’s been a few sightings reported from the 1960s and the 1990s, especially in central and eastern Oregon. Prior to Monday’s sighting, the most recent wolverine report in Oregon was recorded in 2022 in Wallowa County.
Seven western states, including Oregon, have deployed a survey effort to monitor nearly two dozen wolverine bait stations during the fall and winter seasons of 2021 and 2022. Since that effort launched, ODFW has only made one wolverine detection at a station in northeast Oregon.
Wildlife officials encourage anyone who spots the animal to report the sighting as “some of the best information on wildlife can come from regular people who are paying attention to what they see,” according to Teri Lysak, wolverine tracking coordinator with Cascadia Wild.