It was quite the triumph after years and years of searching for the elusive animal. Now, a new project is starting up to find similar documentation of wolverines in the Cascades.
“Everyone agrees that the wilderness around the Three Sisters, Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson contain wolverine habitat,” said Jamie McFadden, biologist and project leader. “But there’s never been any photographic evidence of them from that area.”
McFadden will be using a remote camera trap survey similar to the one used by biologist Audrey Magoun, who captured the first pictures of wolverines in Oregon.
Wolverines photographed in northern California and northeast Oregon both had DNA suggesting they were from Idaho.
“Are the wolverines using Oregon as a dispersal corridor, or do some actually live here?” McFadden asked. “That’s one question that we’re trying to answer.”
Camera surveillance has proven to be an effective way of tracking the rare species, but it’s still a tough task.
“It involves snowshoeing uphill through miles of dangerous avalanche country while wearing a heavy backpack,” Magoun said. “Wolverines don’t make it easy. That’s probably why they’ve lasted so long.”
To look for wolverines in the Cascades, McFadden and her team will find a place that has two trees about 10 feet apart. They’ll attach some bait, likely a road-killed deer, by drilling a hole through a bone in the carcass. They’ll install a platform just tall enough for a wolverine to climb and get to the bait and set up a camera that will take a picture when it detects movement there. Clips along the route to the bait capture hair from the wolverine that contains DNA. (See diagram above)
The team started setting camera systems up last month and will be checking them every three to six weeks.