Wolverine (Gulo gulo) lying on his back, playing, in the spring forest, Norway, close-up
Getty Images, Eleonora Grigorjeva

Watch: Oregon Wildlife Officials Confirm Rare Wolverine Sighting

The mystery animal was identified as an endangered wolverine.

"I thought it was a dog."

When a fur-laden mammal loped through an Oregon field on February 26, this was the observation of bystander Brandon Oswald, who whipped out his phone to capture video of the mysterious creature he spotted in the tiny city of Barlow, located 25 miles south of Portland. The small mammal was in fact something far more rare: a wolverine.

Oswald told a local Fox affiliate about his confusion when he first spotted the animal. "Then I saw how it was running and I thought, 'That's not a dog,' and I honestly didn't know what it was," Oswald said. "The way that it ran was pretty different than anything I've seen; it was almost running like you see a bear would run."

At one point in the video, you can hear him say that he thought it may be a "huge badger," but that was still not quite right. According to Fox 12, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agrees with Oswald's final assessment that he filmed a wolverine.

Officials believe the animal may be the same one that has been seen wandering the state over the last year. In April 2023, a wolverine was seen running around near the Columbia River, followed by several other sightings in Damascus, Oregon City, and Colton, according to a department press release.

"I'm glad I filmed it because I definitely have never seen a wolverine before," Oswald said.

Oregon has a small wolverine population that typically shies away from humans, with April's sighting was the first time in 30 years that an Oregon wolverine had been seen outside of the Wallowa Mountains. The animals are far more common in Canada and Alaska, though another wolverine was spotted in California in June. Wolverines have been on the threatened species list since 2013 but were moved up to the endangered species list in November 2023, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Only about 300 wolverines remain in the United States.

"Current and increasing impacts of climate change and associated habitat degradation and fragmentation are imperiling the North American wolverine," said Pacific regional director Hugh Morrison in a press release. "Based on the best available science, this listing determination will help to stem the long-term impact and enhance the viability of wolverines in the contiguous United States."

Hopefully the recent media attention of sightings will bring additional awareness to the wolverine's plight and an increase in its overall population.

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