Rare wolverine spotted along Columbia River in Portland

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 5:21 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A wolverine sighting was reported by two people who were fishing on the Columbia River near Portland on Monday.

Wolverine are rarely seen by humans and listed as threatened in Oregon. They largest member of the weasel family and resemble a small bear. This is the first confirmed report of a wolverine outside of the Wallowa Mountains in over 30 years, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Photos of the wolverine taken by the anglers were shared with staff from Cascadia Wild, a local non-profit organization conducting community science wildlife surveys for wolverine on Mt. Hood, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.

A rare wolverine sighting on the banks of the Columbia River in Portland.
A rare wolverine sighting on the banks of the Columbia River in Portland.(ODFW)

ODFW wildlife biologists organized a visit to the site where it was spotted with Cascadia Wild staff on Tuesday morning and found a set of wolverine tracks. No other sign was found.

“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.”

ODFW and Cascadia Wild deployed two non-invasive monitoring stations each consisting of a motion-detecting camera and a hair-collecting device baited with a strong-smelling attractant in the nearby area. The cameras will allow ODFW to verify if the wolverine is still in the area. .

Wolverine are widely found in Canada and Alaska, with smaller populations in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon, which is at the southern edge of the current wolverine range in North America. They are strongly associated with snowpack and are most commonly found at high elevations within the southern extent of their distribution, according to ODFW.

A rare wolverine spotted in Portland
A rare wolverine spotted in Portland(ODFW)

Cascadia Wild and ODFW encourage people to report additional sightings of the wolverine.

Cascadia Wild’s Wolverine Tracking Project and surveys in Mt. Hood National Forest include winter tracking, summer scat, and year-round camera surveys.

Wolverines are thought to have been eliminated from Oregon by 1936, though reports were documented each decade from the 1960s to the 1990s, including locations in Linn, Harney, Wheeler, Deschutes and Grant counties. Most accounts reported are visual encounters that can be difficult to verify. However, a wolverine hit by a car on I-84 near Cascade Locks was surrendered to ODFW in 1990. A 2010-2012 monitoring project confirmed three individual wolverines in northeastern Oregon, an area with no prior documentation of wolverines. In 2008, a wolverine (probably of Rocky Mountain origin) was confirmed in northern California, the first such evidence in almost 90 years. Before the confirmed sighting this week, the most recent observation of a wolverine in Oregon was in 2022 in Wallowa County.