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Wolverines in Oregon? The rumors are true


It’s an exciting time for Oregon’s wolverine trackers.

After countless unconfirmed reports of wolverine sightings and years of setting up cameras in remote, snow-covered forests, wildlife biologists working with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have finally found what they were looking for.

A baited camera offered the first confirmed sighting of a wolverine in Oregon in 19 years on April 2. The photo was downloaded on Friday. A very happy Earth Day for wolverine researchers!

A baited camera offered the first confirmed sighting of a wolverine in Oregon in 19 years on April 2. The photo was downloaded on Friday. A very happy Earth Day for wolverine researchers!

Two wolverines were caught on camera this month in Wallowa County. The first discovery came April 17 with a confirmed set of wolverine tracks. Then, just days later, researchers found their camera in Wallowa County had snapped pictures of two wolverines on April 2 and 13.

Wolverine tracks in the snow, April 17. That's a glove on the left for size comparison.

Wolverine tracks in the snow, April 17. That's a glove on the left for size comparison.

I dug up the 2006 Oregon Field Guide episode above to illustrate just how long the search party has been seeking out this elusive species in Oregon.

Wolverines are listed as a state threatened species, and there have been no confirmed sightings anywhere in the state since 1992.

The species became a candidate for federal Endangered Species Act protections in December of last year, and Meg Kenagy of ODFW told me that the species will be a harbinger of climate change because they den in the snow.

Here’s ODFW’s brief history of wolverines in Oregon:

“The wolverine was listed as threatened by the Oregon Game Commission in 1975, grandfathered as a state threatened species (May 1987) and reaffirmed by rule in 1989. It became a federal candidate species on Dec. 14, 2010.

In 1936, the wolverine was thought to have been extirpated from Oregon. In 1965, a male was killed on Three Fingered Jack in Linn County. In 1973, a wolverine was trapped and released on Steens Mountain, Harney County. In 1986, a wolverine was trapped in Wheeler County. In 1990, a dead wolverine was picked up on I-84 in Hood River County. In 1992, a partial skeleton was recovered in Grant County.”

A second wolverine was photographed at a baited camera station on April 13.

A second wolverine was photographed at a baited camera station on April 13.

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