Wolverine

Wolverine (Gulo gulo)

Photo by William F. Wood

Known for its boldness, strength, stamina and keen sense of smell, the wolverine is the world’s largest mustelid after the giant otter.

The wolverine, also referred to as the glutton, carcajou (by French-Canadians), skunk bear, devil bear, or quickhatch; is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae, and is primarily found in the remote forest habitats and open plains of the Northern Hemisphere. The wolverine is adapted for cold climates – its compact body preserves heat, broad paws make locomotion on snow easier, and isolating fur doesn’t gather frost like those of other mammals.

Diet and predators

Wolverines are primarily scavengers,(1) but they will prey upon almost any small to mid-sized mammal; including smaller mustelids.(2) The gray wolf is considered its greatest natural predator.(3)

Habitat loss

Wolverines are coming into conflict with humans more frequently, due to the increase of property development and recreational lands. Hunting and trapping of wolverines have reduce their numbers, causing them to disappear from large parts of their former range.(4)

Sensationalism in media

Like weasels, wolverines are often given the overemphasized title of “killing machines”. Due to their size and strength, it is true they are more fierce than other mustelids. However, this behavior is once again not unique to the animal kingdom; especially in larger carnivorous mammals. When it comes to hunting, protecting territory or fending off predators, carnivores are not known to be gentle or compassionate. It should be noted that when an animal is simply branded a “killing machine”, people will often focus on that one particular characteristic, rather than the animal’s other abilities, or vulnerabilities.

Size: 65-105 cm / 26-41 in (males), 63-89 cm / 25-35 in (females)
Weight: 9-17 kg / 22-36 lb (males), 8-12 kg / 18-26 lb (females)
Lifespan: 10 years
Range: The Northern boreal forests, subarctic and alpine tundra of the Northern Hemisphere.
Conservation Status: Least Concern
References

  1. Van Dijk, Jiska, et al. “Diet shift of a facultative scavenger, the wolverine, following recolonization of wolves.” Journal of Animal Ecology 77.6 (2008): 1183-1190.
  2. Heptner, Vladimir G., ed. Mammals of the Soviet Union, Volume 2 Part 2 Carnivora (Hyenas and Cats). Vol. 2. Brill, 1989.
  3. Burkholder, Bob L. “Observations concerning wolverine.” Journal of Mammalogy 43.2 (1962): 263-264.
  4. Glenn Hurowitz (2008-03-05). “First wolverine in 30 years spotted in California

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