|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.
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.
Wolverines 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.
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 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.
As a symbol
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)
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