Oregon Cascades Wolverines

Three weeks ago, my sister and I climbed Mount St. Helens. From the top, the view was spectacular, volcanic peaks floating above swells of forested country in all directions. Wolverines could easily be living in the area, but although there are records and anecdotal sightings from the Washington Cascades, wolverines have not been documented in the Oregon Cascades. This winter, using the camera-trap methodology that Audrey Magoun employed in the Wallowas in eastern Oregon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and several other organizations will survey for wolverines in the region around Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, and the Three Sisters.

As Audrey Magoun says in an article about the project, “Nobody thought we’d find them in the Wallowas, but we did…If Jamie [McFadden, project leader] finds wolverines in the Cascades, so close to a large human population, it will be way bigger news.”

This project is one of a range of wolverine surveys that are using camera traps to try to document wolverine presence across the Western US and into Canada. Some of these efforts are working through state wildlife departments, some are cooperative efforts between state agencies and wildlife conservation or advocacy groups, and some are pure citizen science efforts. The explosion in wolverine work through camera trapping and track surveys and citizen science in general is a little dizzying, and has left me wondering about how best to harness all the enthusiasm to ensure that the results are as scientifically useful as possible and that they reach decision makers. In efforts such as the Oregon project above, the involvement of the state wildlife department will accomplish that, but with the numerous disparate efforts elsewhere, I wonder if there’s room for more discussion about how to maximize the utility of the data. With a wide-ranging species that inhabits the west as one interconnected meta-population, a lot of localized, independent efforts risk yielding data of only limited use. Maybe we should create an opportunity for all of these projects to communicate with each other about study design, methodology, and results. Opinions on the topic would be welcome.

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One thought on “Oregon Cascades Wolverines

  1. I think it’s important that a professional be present with citizen science efforts so that all data can be verified and deemed ‘credible’ in the scientific community. With regards to situations that are purely citizen science-based without a professional, it’s critical that as much data is logged as possible, including accurate photographs, GPS coordinates, etc. The more plausible the data is, the more likely a person could get professionals who are perpetually strapped for funds to investigate further.

    It seems to me that for there to be communication between projects, agencies, and regions, there needs to be a central hub so that ideas can be exchanged, testing parameters can be shared, and so forth. Maybe that hub is here, maybe it’s elsewhere, but I feel like with the internet what it is now, connectivity between studies shouldn’t be that difficult as long as ideas are shared on an informal basis before studies are published. I feel like this is a very basic response. Hopefully someone can expound on this and give it some direction.

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