Two anglers managed to snap a once-in-a-lifetime photo last week when they spotted a wolverine — that’s right, a wolverine — in Western Oregon. Before this photo was taken, scientists thought there was exactly one wolverine left in the state of Oregon, and that it was sequestered far away in the Wallowa Mountains. This sighting is proof that the species may be more widespread than biologists have long believed. It’s also the first time the famously elusive species has been documented beyond the Wallowas in more 30 years.
According to an announcement by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the wolverine was spotted in the backcountry near Portland. It had crept down to the edge of the Columbia River and was scrambling amid roots and brambles on the bank when the anglers caught sight of it. They managed to capture a few photos of the animal before it disappeared.
Several scientists returned to the site the next morning and found wolverine tracks embedded in the soil near the river. Then, just three days later, residents of Damascus reported a second wolverine sighting. Biologists believe this was the same wolverine that was photographed by the river, reports Outdoor Life. However, they’re fairly certain that it’s a different individual than the lone male known to reside in the Wallowa Mountains.
Wolverines are common elsewhere in North America, particularly in Canada, but they were thought to be extinct in Oregon until the 1990s when someone hit one with their car. Over the past few years, scientists have searched Oregon’s mountains and forests. But beyond a very small population in the Wallowas, they weren’t able to find any sign of the animals elsewhere in the state.
Wolverines are very difficult to study due to their elusive nature, penchant for solitude, and preference for remote, snowy terrain. They’re known to be vicious hunters and will eat everything from rabbits and foxes to carrion. They’re the largest terrestrial species of the weasel family.