Wolverine spotted in mountains near Sisters
Last updated 4/18/2023 at 6:10pm
A sighting of a wolverine east of Santiam Pass on April 6 was confirmed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Video of the wolverine crossing the highway can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/shorts/Q0kSPFqiiww. ODFW Deschutes District staff confirmed tracks near the video location on the day of the sighting.
Over the past month, there have been several wolverine sighting reports submitted to ODFW and Cascadia Wild, a local nonprofit organization conducting community science wildlife surveys for wolverine on Mt. Hood. The first report was made on March 20 by two people fishing on the Columbia River who took photos of a wolverine on the bank of McGuire Island. Additional sightings were confirmed in Damascus, Oregon City, and Colton over the next several days.
Based on timing, locations of the verified sightings and the trajectory of travel, it is possible that these sightings are of the same individual wolverine, though ODFW says that this cannot be confirmed. Long-distance dispersal or "exploratory" movements are not irregular for a wolverine during this time of year and they can travel well over 30 miles in a day, ODFW reports. Based on the location, this wolverine is likely dispersing to a new area where it can survive and hopefully reproduce. Wolverines need high-elevation habitat (alpine areas with dense snowpack), but young wolverines often disperse long distances to establish new territory.
Wolverines are rare in Oregon, and these sightings are significant to wildlife conservation, ODFW states. The initial sighting along the Columbia River last month was the first confirmed report of a wolverine outside of the Wallowa Mountains in over 30 years. The last documented wolverine in the Central Cascades was killed in 1969 by a trapper near Broken Top Mountain. Wolverine are listed as a state threatened species in Oregon, and no hunting or trapping of wolverine is allowed.
Although ODFW occasionally receives reports of wolverines, it can be difficult to confirm a sighting without documentation or tracks. If you see something, share it with ODFW on iNaturalist, an app/website that helps biologists track individual sightings of wildlife like wolverine.