Wolverines elude researchers
By Dylan J. Darling
Published Feb 13, 2014 at 09:31PM / Updated Feb 14, 2014 at 09:59AM
The wolverine just may be the sasquatch of Central Oregon — rumored to be here, but no evidence to prove it.
A pair of wildlife researchers are three-quarters of the way done with a two-year project aimed at capturing a photo and snagging a fur sample from carnivores in the Cascades from the Three Sisters to Mount Jefferson. Their main targets are foxes, martens and wolverines.
Among the more than 62,000 photos collected by motion-triggered trail cameras so far they’ve seen foxes and martens, among more than a dozen meat-eating species of mammals, but still no wolverines. Their field season goes until May and Jamie McFadden-Hiller, a research assistant at Mississippi State University, said she hasn’t yet given up hope of finding wolverine evidence.
Even if the project doesn’t yield photo or fur from a wolverine, McFadden-Hiller said it wouldn’t rule out that wolverines are lurking in the high Cascades.
“Just because we haven’t detected one doesn’t mean they are not here,” she said.
The last known wolverine in Central Oregon was killed by a hunter near Broken Top in 1969. Each year there are about four or five reports of people seeing a wolverine in the Central Oregon Cascades, said Corey Heath, Deschutes district wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend. But no one has yet to turn in a photo, a tuft of fur or other evidence of the animal.
It’s hard to prove there are wolverines here without a photo, he said.
“And that is what (the researchers) are trying to get,” Heath said.
McFadden-Hiller and her husband, Tim Hiller, a research scientist at Mississippi State, set up 32 cameras for their first field season — which started in October 2012 and ended last May — and 25 cameras this season. With the help of volunteers they’ve checked the cameras regularly to see the resulting photos.
Tim Hiller, a researcher trying to find evidence of wolverines in the Central Oregon Cascades, sets a ground station on April 13, 2013, in the woods burned by the 2003 B&B Complex Fire near Santiam Pass. The station includes bait held up by chicken wire, in this case salmon from a hatchery, and gun brushes affixed to plastic looped around a tree. The brushes catch fur from animals brought in by the bait, while a nearby digital trail camera captures photos and video of the creatures. Courtesy Jamie McFadden-Hiller