SALEM - Trappers in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Areas of northeastern Oregon are being warned to watch out for wolverines.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is reminding trappers that wolverines, found to be in the area, are classified as threatened under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.
In late December, a wolverine was accidentally captured in a foothold trap set near the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The trapper immediately contacted ODFW, and biologists came to the site, tranquilized the wolverine and released it unharmed.
Currently wolverines cannot be trapped in Oregon due to their state-threatened status. No citations were issued in this case because the trapper followed regulations and immediately contacted ODFW.
"This trapper did exactly what he was supposed to do following the capture of the wolverine," said Tim Hiller, ODFW furbearer coordinator. "We appreciate that the trapper also voluntarily pulled all of his traps from the area afterwards."
ODFW asked trappers to avoid the area or take special precautions when trapping in areas of known wolverine activity, encouraging them to avoid the use of lethal traps such as medium or large body-gripping traps. ODFW also recommended that trappers familiarize themselves with wolverine sign, especially tracks.
Bobcats and wolverines can sometimes be found in the same areas. However, deep snow usually forces most bobcats out of wolverine habitat and greatly decreases access to that habitat for trappers.
Most bobcat trappers have since voluntarily removed all of their traps from the area where the wolverine was trapped, according to Jim Soares, Secretary/Treasurer of the Northeast Oregon Trappers Association and member of the Oregon Trappers Association.
"Oregon trappers don't want to capture wolverines or any non-target species," said Soares. "The trappers I know are very aware of the diversity of wildlife in the area and take precautions to only trap animals they intend to trap."
Wolverines have been found in Oregon several times since 1936, when they had been thought to be extirpated from Oregon. Most recently, researchers captured images of wolverines on a trail camera and confirmed wolverine tracks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area in Wallowa County in 2011.
To date, there is no evidence of a breeding population of wolverines in Oregon.