There is a wolverine in East Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains

Tracks of a male found in the rugged mountain wilderness-

Although it might just be passing through, this is a first for this mountain fastness.

Last summer, my spouse (Jackie) staffed a fire tower on the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, which covers much of the mountain range.

Wallowa Mountains from Deadman Point. Aug. 2010. Copyright Ralph Maughan

The creation of the vast Eagle Cap Wilderness, plus a number of subsequent additions, was a great conservation victory.

Story. Wolverine tracks found for first time in Wallowa County. Researchers seek to answer if animal was loner or part of pack. East Oregonian.
Regarding this headline . . . wolverine don’t form packs.



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  1. Mike Avatar

    Beautiful shot, Ralph.

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      It is a beautiful picture. It’s making my office feel that much more stifling right now.

  2. Mjollnir Avatar

    Near Donner pass, Ca, Mt. Adams, Wa., and now the Wallowas. Would be nice to think there are more out there than what people see.

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar
    A biologist took photos of two wolverines in the Wallowa mountains after finding the tracks.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      What great news!

  4. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Wolverines are an enigma to me. It just doesn’t quite add up how they do all that traveling on short legs and find enough dead things to eat that haven’t already been consumed by other animals. I know the catch some game, but don’t seem fast enough to catch much and I just don’t ever see that much dead to eat in the alpine areas where they spend most of their time — and anything that dies up there is quickly spotted and cleaned up by ravens, etc. I watched a wolverine oddly lope by once while sitting outside my tent in the Brooks Range — it spotted and veered off toward a young Dall sheep ram on the mountainside that of course had no problem leaving it far behind.

    Around here, they seem to eat mostly mountain goats, presumably mostly those that have died of other causes (I suspect wolverines do a bit of intertidal foraging at times in the winter). And yet, they seem surprisingly common in this area — researchers in a valley north of here were I’ve spent a lot of time managed to catch 14 in about 2 years, using mostly log cabin looking traps that weigh about 1,200 lbs. and have a trap lid with a satellite sensor — all heavy wood so they can’t damage their teeth, etc. One of their collared subjects was trapped hundreds of miles east in interior B.C. over some incredibly rugged country including the Taku and Stikine Rivers.

    My only really close encounter was looking out of a helicopter. Returning from fish surveys in mid to late September (wolverine breeding season?), I spotted a pair on a sloped patch of permanent snow while we were squeezing under cloud cover through a high pass up behind town. I pointed them out to the pilot and the next thing I knew was looking feet out the front at this little animal with fur whipping in the rotor wash that was all teeth and saliva and appearing completely prepared to leap on the front of our screaming, flashing “gassin’ machine”. It looked mighty ferocious, and as we moved past the other one we got exactly the same response. When we got back to town, another pilot mentioned he’d once landed on a ridge top up in the 40 Mile country in an old Hiller 12E and must have unknowingly touched down awfully close to one because the next thing he knew a wolverine was up on the pontoon right beside him scratching and biting at the bubble. And yet for all that potential ferocity, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of anyone ever being so much as nipped by one while traveling in the outdoors— ever — and you would think sooner or later someone must have stepped over a rock right onto one . . . . .

    1. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
      Peter Kiermeir

      Think there is the story of a trapper in Alaska that got his face badly mauled by a wolverine. I think the story is covered, albeit not in much detail, in a thick paperback titled “Danger stalkes the Land, Alaskan Tales of Death and Survival”.

      1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
        SEAK Mossback

        Peter —
        I should have qualified that. Yes, I’m certain a number of trappers have been bitten by trapped wolverines. I knew one, an old fellow (now deceased) who lived right across the channel from me and used to trap them uphill behind his house — an area where wolverines and their tracks and are not uncommon. They are clearly incredibly ferocious when cornered, but I have never heard of an injury from a free-roaming wolverine.

  5. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I watched a wolverine cross a mountain range in the Yukon a few years ago. It continued to lope or gallop for miles as I watched it through my binoculars. They have tremendous stamina.
    I was watching an injured and down (It had something wrong with its back) caribou surrounded by dozens of ravens. The wolverine chased the ravens away and sniffed around the caribou for a few moments and then galloped off without hurting the caribou. The ravens pecked the caribou to death over a period of several hours.
    I hope the biologists in Oregon continue to use these camera traps and do not capture and radio collar these two wolverines.

  6. Kibby Avatar

    ‘Researchers seek to answer if the animal was a loner or part of pack.’

    Perhaps the reporter is used to writing stories about wolves…

  7. Scott MacButch Avatar

    Wolverines are my all time favorite animal. I have only seen two, one in Kenai Fjords and the other floating the Kilik River in the Brooks Range. I did see tracks in the Centennial Mountains in the winter, but later a wolverine was legally trapped there and always wondered it that was the one who’s tracks I saw.
    As mentioned in Doug Chadwick’s excellent book, “Wolverine Way”, they just no no quit, they never give up and just keep walking, sometimes over the top of 10,000′ mountains in the winter. If you are constantly on the move, odds are you will eventually find something to eat. Also it was interesting to read, that they are not the true loner that many believe. True they will fight like crazy any strange wolverine that comes into there territory (speaking mainly of males here), but as Chadwick explains, at least in Glacier NP, males often hook up with daughters and sons, sometimes years later and “hang” together for several months or even a year.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      You have seen a lot of wildlife. With your luck you will eventually see a wolverine.

      I saw tracks on the West Slope of the Tetons and in Hammond Canyon in SE Utah. Doubt I’ll ever see one.

      1. Brent Avatar


        You certainly are knowledgeable about wildlife – do you think you really saw tracks in the Abajos? When I lived in Utah I studied the possibilities of Wolverine. The only plausible scenario (I thought) was in the Uintas. I hear that the Colorado DFG may reintroduce them into Colorado, and the San Juans would be the best candidate. From there a wolverine may make it into the Abajos, but it would seem unlikely to go that far across lowland desert. Did you maybe see badger tracks?

        Interested in your thoughts…

      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


        It was 20 years ago. I guess that is possible. Tracks went down the wet sand of the streambed for several miles. I do recall that maybe 5 years ago there was a story about a collared wolverine that made a huge circuit. It seems like it was Colorado through part of southern Utah, up to Idaho, Wyoming and back to Colorado.

        The Abajos connect to Colorado at a fairly high elevation. An animal coming from the east doesn’t have to cross much desert.

  8. Brent Avatar


    That part of Utah is amazing, and to think that wolverine could be there, wow! I appreciate you sharing that.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan