A wolverine was spotted near Oregon's Columbia River on Monday, marking the first confirmed time that the species has been seen outside the Wallowa Mountains in over 30 years.
The wolverine was spotted by two people fishing in the river near Portland. Photos taken by the pair were shared with staff of Cascadia Wild, a local nonprofit organization that does community science wildlife surveys, and with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The experts were able to verify the photo, and a search of the area turned up wolverine tracks in the area.
Department wildlife biologist Dave Keiter said in a news release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife that he and his colleagues were "surprised" by the report and "elated" to be able to verify the sighting of the mammal.
"We really appreciate the people who reported this rare occurrence and Cascadia Wild who helped us confirm the report and begin monitoring efforts," Keiter said. The department and Cascadia Wild have deployed two non-invasive monitoring stations with cameras and hair-collecting devices that will keep an eye on the area and allow the department to confirm if the wolverine is still in the area.
While wolverines are common in Canada and Alaska, and seen in parts of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon, the species is considered threatened in Oregon and rarely appears outside the high-elevation areas with snowpack. In the news release, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said that it was "likely" that the wolverine was "dispersing" because the "habitat in the area doesn't meet the life history requirements of wolverines."
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Cascadia Wild have asked that people report additional sightings of the wolverine. Wolverine, which typically weigh from 18-40 pounds and resemble small bears, can travel over 30 miles in a day — so officials said it is "likely" the animal has already moved on from the area where it was spotted.
"Some of the best information on wildlife can come from regular people who are paying attention to what they see," said Teri Lysak, wolverine tracking coordinator with Cascadia Wild. "Many thanks to the couple who saw this animal and took the time to share it with us."