On April 17, biologist Audrey Magoun and husband Pat Valkenburg discovered intriguing tracks in Oregon's snowy Wallowa Mountains. Five days later, Magoun downloaded photos from a remote camera and realized the creature had company: Two hungry wolverines stared back from her screen, gnashing hunks of bait meat. It's the first confirmed evidence of Oregon wolverines since 1992. If the pair -- dubbed Iceman and Stormy -- reappears next winter, or if one turns out to be a lactating female, Magoun and Valkenburg will know they're permanent residents.
Wolverines were likely extirpated from the Lower 48 by the early 20th century, but others have since wandered down from Canada. Some 200 to 300 now roam Washington's North Cascades and the Rockies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Last year, one was spotted in Colorado and another in California's Sierra Nevada. That's hopeful news, given the often dire predictions about the fate of the species, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared "warranted but precluded" for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Cold and snowy wolverine habitat is expected to shrink 63 percent by 2099, according to the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group and the U.S. Forest Service.