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All Things Wolverine.
Information and pictures on Wolverine.
Educational, Zoological, and Classification info.



The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is the largest land-dwelling species of the Mustelidae or weasel family (the Giant Otter is largest overall), and is the only species currently classified in the genus Gulo (meaning "glutton"). It is also called the Glutton or Carcajou. Some authors recognize two subspecies: the Old World form Gulo gulo gulo and the New World form G. g. luscus. A third subspecies limited to Vancouver Island (G. g. vancouverensis) is also occasionally described. However craniomorphic evidence suggests that the Vancouver Island wolverines are properly included within G. g. luscus.

The wolverine (Gulo) is a stocky and muscular animal , considered carnivorous but known on occasion to eat plant material. It has glossy brown hair with stripes of dull yellow along the sides. Its fur is long and dense and does not retain much water, making it very resistant to frost, which is common in the wolverine's cold habitat. (For these reasons, the fur has been traditionally popular among hunters and trappers as a lining in jackets and parkas, especially for wear in Arctic conditions). The adult wolverine is about the size of a medium dog, with a length usually ranging from 65-87 cm (25-34 inches), a tail of 17-26 cm (7-10 inches), and weight of 10-30 kg (22-66 lb). Males are as much as 30 percent larger than the females. In appearance the wolverine resembles a small bear with a long tail. It has been known to give off a very strong, extremely unpleasant odor, giving rise to the nicknames "skunk bear" and "nasty cat." Wolverines, as other mustelids, possess a special upper molar in the back of the mouth that is rotated 90 degrees, or sideways. This special characteristic allows wolverines to tear off meat from prey or carrion that has been frozen solid and also to crush bones, which enables the wolverine to extract marrow.

The Wolverine has long held a place in folklore as a beast of great ferocity, cunning, and extraordinary strength. First Nations mythology describes the Wolverine as a trickster-hero, and a link to the spirit world. The Wolverine occurs in such low numbers across most of its remote habitat, and is so mobile, that it is extremely difficult to study.

Wolverines are non-migratory and do not hibernate in the winter. They are active both day and night, and often alternate three to four hour periods of activity and sleep. They can travel for long distances, climb trees, and swim. Their broad feet and muscular limbs allow them to chase down their prey - even on soft snow. They occupy large home ranges that vary from 50 to 400 km2 for females, and 230 to 1580 km2 for males. There is overlap between home ranges, and a certain portion of the population is transient at any given time. Transients are typically yearlings, and these dispersing individuals may travel more than 200 km.

WolverineWolverines are omnivorous, consuming a wide variety of scavenged or fresh food items ranging from large ungulates such as moose, caribou, and mountain goats, to smaller animals such as beavers, porcupines, ground squirrels, and fish, to roots and berries. In turn, the Wolverine is preyed upon by bears, wolves, cougars, Golden Eagles, and other Wolverines.

Wolverines are sexually mature at two to three years of age. Between April and September, the animals come together in pairs to breed. Pairs last only for a few days, and both males and females may remate several times with other individuals. The fertilised egg does not start to develop until it is implanted many months later. This delayed implantation accommodates mating in the summer when the females are more sedentary, while ensuring that the young are born at the optimal time of year for their survival. The females build dens, either in rocky slopes, deadfall, or snow tunnels, in which they give birth to young between late March and mid-April. Litters of two or three young are common, but females do not bear young every year. The young typically nurse for 8 to 10 weeks, separate from the mother in the autumn, and attain adult size after about seven months.

The low reproduction rate of the Wolverine means that the population is not able to recover quickly after population declines.

The wolverine is, like most mustelids, remarkably strong for its size, and is considered one of the most ferocious of that family. It has been known to kill prey as large as moose, although most typically when these are weakened by winter or caught in snow banks. Wolverines inhabiting the Old World (specifically, Fennoscandia) are more active hunters than their North American cousins. This may be because competing predator populations are not as dense, making it more practical for the wolverine to hunt for itself than to wait for another animal to make a kill and then try to snatch it.

There are documented instances of wolverines defending kills against larger or more numerous predators, though it is not clear whether the wolverine's apparent success in these episodes reflect the wolverine's superior fighting ability, or instead simple prudence on the part of the challenger. There is at least one published account of a 27-pound wolverine's attempt to steal a kill from a much larger predator—namely, a black bear (adult males weighing 400 to 500 pounds). Unfortunately for the mustelid, the bear won what was ultimately a fatal contest, crushing the wolverine's skull. Such encounters are unusual, however, for wolverines are usually able to frighten away or overpower predators smaller than adult brown bears thanks both to powerful jaws and a thick hide.

Mating season is in the summer, but the actual implantation of the embryo (blastocyst) in the uterus is stayed until early winter, delaying the development of the fetus. Females will often not produce young if food is scarce. The young (typically three or four) are born in the spring. Kits develop rapidly, reaching adult size within the first year of a lifespan that may reach anywhere from five to (in exceptional individuals) thirteen years.

Adult wolverines have no natural predators, save man, though they do come into conflict with (and may be killed by) other large predators over territory and food. Juveniles are, unsurprisingly, more vulnerable and infants (kits) have been known on occasion to be taken by predatory birds, such as eagles.

The wolverine lives primarily in isolated northern areas, for example the arctic and alpine regions of Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia; they are also native to Russia and the Baltic countries. Until the mid-nineteenth century, however, the wolverine was found as far south as the Sierra Nevada in California; a few remain in the Rocky Mountains and northern Cascades of the United States.

The world's total wolverine population is unknown. The animal exhibits a low population density and requires a very large home range. The range of male wolverine can be more than 620 km² (240 sq mi) while encompassing the ranges of several females (with smaller home ranges of roughly 130-260 km² (50-100 sq mi). Adult wolverines try for the most part to keep non-overlapping ranges with adults of the same sex. Radio tracking suggests an animal can range hundreds of miles in only a few months.
Since 2003 Canada has classified its eastern population of wolverines as endangered.

The wolverine's (questionable) reputation as insatiable glutton may be in part due to a false etymology. The animal's name in Old Norse, Fjellfräs, meaning "fell (mountain) cat", worked its way into German as Vielfraß, which means roughly "devours much". Its name in other West Germanic languages is similar (e.g. Dutch Veelvraat).

As a symbol
The Norwegian municipality of Bardu has a wolverine in the coats-of-arms.
The U.S. state of Michigan is, by tradition, known as "The Wolverine State," and the University of Michigan takes the wolverine as its mascot. Many other educational institutions utilized the wolverine as its athletic mascot (eg. Utah Valley State College) A major league baseball team from the 1880s was also popularly known as the "Detroit Wolverines". The association is well and long established: for example, many Detroiters volunteered to fight during the American Civil War. George Armstrong Custer led the Michigan Brigade and called them the "Wolverines." The origins of this association are obscure: it may derive from a busy trade in wolverine furs in Sault Ste. Marie in the 18th century or may recall a disparagement intended to compare early settlers in Michigan with the vicious and gluttonous mammal. In any event, the animal appears no longer to be indigenous to the state (and in fact may never have been). It is, at the very least, an uncommon sight there: for example, when one was observed in February 2004 by hunters and biologists near Ubly, it was the first confirmed sighting of a wolverine in Michigan in about two centuries. It is unknown if that particular animal was a state native or if it migrated or had been aided by humans.

The European Football League (playing American football in Europe) includes the Helsinki Wolverines, founded in 1995. The team plays in the Maple League, the Finnish top level. Fittingly, the team's colors and helmet design are identical to those of the University of Michigan, whose mascot is also the wolverine.

The wolverine figures prominently in the mythology of the Innu people of eastern Québec and Labrador. In at least one Innu myth, it is the creator of the world.

A popular Marvel comics character and member of the X-men, Wolverine, was named after this animal.

Wolverines are also the mascot of the high school turned guerrilla group in the classic cult drama Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen (1984)

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Gulo Pallas, 1780
Species: G. gulo

Binomial name

Gulo gulo  (Linnaeus, 1758)

Wolverine range




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