Wolverines Spotted In Wallowas, For The First Time

UPDATED 8:50 A.M., APRIL 26, 2011: ODFW trail cameras captured what agency biologists believe to be two different wolverines.

(ODFW)

Here’s ODFW’s latest press release:

Five days after discovering wolverine tracks in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon, researcher Audrey Magoun downloaded photos of two wolverines from a bait station camera.

“They are clearly photos of two different individuals,” Magoun said.

The photos were taken on April 2 and 13 and downloaded on April 22, 2011.

After viewing the photos, Magoun and research assistant Pat Valkenburg redesigned the camera site so that when the wolverines return—and Magoun believes they will—they will be able to get photos of the wolverines’ abdomens which will help determine the sex of the animals.

The set of tracks discovered on April 17 was the first confirmation of a wolverine in Wallowa County, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Vic Coggins. Read the April 22, 2011 news release: Wolverine tracks confirmed in Wallowa County for first time

Magoun and Valkenburg have been surveying for wolverine in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest within and adjacent to the Eagle Cap Wilderness since January of this year. Funding and logistical support for the wolverine survey comes from an Oregon Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant(federal State Wildlife Grant), The Wolverine Foundation, Inc., the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Seattle Foundation and private individuals including Magoun and Valkenburg, Alaska residents, who use their own plane for aerial surveys.

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.

Dudes and dudettes, I’m just going to admit something to ya’ll: I like wolverines.

First, there’s the movie Red Dawn and its famous battle cry that has echoed through the years between my friends and I, and then there are some who have said that my somewhat grouchy personality resembles Gulo gulo in the morning.

Whatever it is, I’m following news out of Oregon that, for the first time in recorded history, the tracks of one have been spotted in the Wallowas.

That follows the capture of a handful in Washington’s North Cascades in recent years.

Here’s ODFW’s press release:

ENTERPRISE, Ore.—For the first time in recorded history, biologists have confirmed that tracks found in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon are those of a North American wolverine.

Researcher Dr. Audrey Magoun found the wolverine tracks in the snow on April 17 while hiking to a remote camera site set up to detect wolverines. She followed the tracks for about a mile until they left the river bottom headed into the high country.

“From the size of the track, it is probably a male,” said Magoun who has dedicated her career to studying wolverine since she received her Ph.D. in 1978.

“This is the first confirmation of a wolverine in Wallowa County,” said Vic Coggins, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district wildlife biologist. “We’ve always thought it was good habitat, and we’ve had reports but nothing we could verify until now.”

Magoun also believed the habitat conditions were right, which was why she and research assistant, pilot and husband, Pat Valkenburg, undertook this winter’s survey in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

“There is a breeding population in the Payette Forest in Idaho and a breeding population in the North Cascades in Washington,” she said. “In fact, we couldn’t believe wolverine wouldn’t be here. They travel large distances.”

As part of the survey, 14 baited field camera sites were set up and several aerial flights made. None of the cameras have yet yielded a photo of a wolverine, but 80 percent of the cameras had photos of American marten and a few native red fox were detected. Biologists believe these animals are probably the native foxes that were once common in the Wallowa Mountains.

Coggins is interested in the data on marten and red fox in the higher elevations. “It’s great to know what species are using these areas—it’s indicative of the health of the habitat and helps with management decisions,” he said.

According to Magoun, the next question is: Is this a lone wolverine or is the area occupied? She hopes to be back next winter field season to try and answer that question.

Funding and logistical support for the survey comes from an Oregon Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant (federal State Wildlife Grant), The Wolverine Foundation, Inc., the Wildlife Conservation Society and private individuals including Magoun and Valkenburg, Alaska residents, who use their own plane for aerial surveys.

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.

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