Rare wolverine sighting recorded near Portland

By Jeff Thompson (OPB)
March 23, 2023 8:49 p.m. Updated: March 23, 2023 9:35 p.m.

A wolverine spotted near Portland this week became the first of its kind seen in western Oregon in more than 30 years.

Two people photographed the wolverine while they were fishing on the Columbia River Monday and shared the images with staff from Cascadia Wild and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. An ODFW team then confirmed the animal’s tracks in the area the next morning.


“I could hardly believe my eyes,” state biologist Kaly Adkins said. “The thought of having a wolverine inhabiting the Cascades is something that we have definitely known is not out of the realm of possibility, but hasn’t really been documented since the 60s.”

A wolverine along the banks of the Columbia River.

On Monday, March 20, 2023, this wolverine was seen along the Columbia River near Portland. The sighting was rare, as wolverines typically reside in Eastern Oregon.

Cascadia Wild / Provided by Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife


Until this week, just one wolverine had been seen in Oregon in the last 12 years, and that was in the Wallowa Mountains near the state’s eastern border.

Adkins said the wolverine spied near Portland likely won’t stick around long. It was probably moving between higher and snowier habitats.

“They need alpine areas with pretty dense snowpack,” she said. “They need that because that’s how they feed the kits, or the young, in the winter months. They actually cache food in snow banks. It kind of serves as a freezer so that they can pull out the leftovers and eat them in the months where life is really rugged.”

Wolverines resemble small bears and are the largest members of the weasel family. They can travel up to 30 miles a day.

The one spotted Monday was likely seen again in Damascus, Oregon on Wednesday. But wildlife officials say it’s hard to say where it may be by now.

Adkins asked people to keep an eye out, and said if you catch a glimpse of this rare and threatened species, try to snap a photo and report it to ODFW or iNaturalist.org.