Rare, reclusive mammal spotted on Washington coast

LONG BEACH, Wash. -- For many Washingtonians, it's a dream to spot a rare animal on our state's coastline.

Perhaps a humpback whale. Maybe a migrating bird.

But one typically found hundreds of miles inland? That's usually not what one has in mind when it comes to rare coastal sightings.

Yet that's what happened when two separate people spotted one of Washington's most reclusive mammals.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, three pictures of a wolverine were snapped before and during the Memorial Day holiday weekend in Pacific County.

First, Jacob Eaton managed two photos of a wolverine running on a dirt road near Naselle. Then beachgoer Jennifer Henry noticed a peculiar looking creature poking at the carcass of a dead marine animal Saturday.

Both pictures were given to WDFW. Officials believe they do indeed show a wolverine.

Jeff Lewis, a conservation biologist at WDFW, says wolverines in the Lower 48 are exceedingly hard to find for multiple reasons. There are less than 50 wolverines in Washington, he believes, and likely around 300 total in the contiguous United States. They're reclusive and largely stay away from people.

"It's one of the most difficult animals to see and that's why it's really special when you do see one," Lewis said.

To spot one on the beach is even rarer - perhaps never been done in the state. Most of the state's wolverines live in the Cascade range and are often found at high elevations.

Lewis can never even recall a wolverine being spotted in the Olympics.

This animal likely is expanding its range and headed west, Lewis said. Officials aren't sure if it will stay or head back to the mountains.

State officials hope to find hair or other DNA samples of this wolverine in the field to get a better idea of where it came from, Lewis said. They will use it as part of a larger wolverine counting project scheduled in the coming years.

And no need to worry - wolverines are not dangerous to people, Lewis said.

Anyone who believes they spot a wolverine is encouraged to contact WDFW.