One of Oregon’s rarest critters spotted near Portland

An extremely rare sighting of a wolverine by two anglers in Oregon on Monday has been confirmed by state biologists.

The sighting, which occurred along the Columbia River near Portland, marked the first documentation of a wolverine beyond Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains in 30-plus years.

“Given the proximity to Portland, we were very surprised when this report came in and elated when we were able to verify the sighting,” Dave Keiter, a biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, stated Wednesday in a news release. “We really appreciate the people who reported this rare occurrence and Cascadia Wild who helped us confirm the report and begin monitoring efforts.”

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Wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family. The stocky carnivores, bear-like in appearance, can weigh as much as 30 pounds.

They’re widely distributed in Canada and Alaska, but less common in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon.

In their southern range, they reside mostly in high-altitude alpine and forest habitat. Sightings are rare because of the habitat they prefer, but also because wolverines are solitary and elusive.

The anglers who photographed the wolverine on Monday shared their images with Cascadia Wild, which monitors wildlife activity in the Mt. Hood National Forest east of Portland.

ODFW biologists and Cascadia Wild staff visited the observation site Tuesday and discovered wolverine tracks. They placed motion-sensor cameras and hair-collection devices in the hope of obtaining additional footage and samples.

In reference to the wolverine’s proximity to Portland, ODFW stated, “It is likely that this animal was dispersing as the habitat in the area doesn’t meet the life history requirements of wolverines. Wolverines can travel over 30 miles in a day, so it is likely the animal is already long gone from where it was sighted.”

Wolverines were thought to have been eliminated in Oregon by 1936. But sporadic reports of unverified sightings began to occur in several counties beginning in the 1960s.

A wolverine was struck by a vehicle on I-84 near Cascade Locks in 1990, and turned over to ODFW.

In 2010-12, a monitoring project discovered the presence of three wolverines in northeast Oregon, a first for the region.

The most recent documentation of a wolverine in Oregon, before Monday’s sighting, occurred last year in Wallowa County.

–Images courtesy of Cascadia Wild, via ODFW

Story originally appeared on For The Win