The wolverine is best known as a solitary traveler of the far north of Canada as well as the American state of Alaska. Amazingly wolverines are a member of the “weasel” family, which is scientifically the Mustelidae, being the largest of this grouping that is with the exception of the sea otter itself. Generally wolverines stand 15 inches high at the shoulder and weigh in the ranges of between 20 to 35 pounds (equivalent to between 9 and 16 kg) in weight.
Sometimes though their mass can even exceed this in bigger specimens. Typically their length is in the ranges of 40 inches long. The head of a wolverine is compact and the ears themselves are small, which is characteristic of animals which live in the arctic and similar very cold regions of our globe.
The rather shaggy coat worn by the wolverine has a dark brown color. A lighter stripe of fur extends along each side from the shoulder to the rump area. The wolverine’s broad low- slung body travels on short legs with feet that on first glance you would well imagine are much too large for its overall and general bulk. Yet the wolverine was well planned and laid out by the creator him or herself for these large feet are snowshoe type aids in winter when the animal must traverse and cross snow fields.
Wolverines seem content to live their lives apart from all others of their kind and ilk. They travel alone year round, except during the breeding season. In this time period – which typically occurs in most years and seasonal weather conditions in March , the males and females consort briefly before going back yet again to their solitary lives and travels.
In June or July, the female will move into her selected denning place, usually in the thicket or pile of rocks, and give to birth to two or three young, Throughout the first summer the young wolverines stay with their mother, learning the skills – by imitation and observation of learning how to find and capture food.
The food of the wolverine is varied, for the creature is an “opportunist”, eating almost anything that lives or has lived in its catchments areas. Even the porcupine covered with its protective spines, is sometimes killed and consumed amazingly by wolverines yet in turn the wolverines are sometimes killed themselves – or succumb to infections initiated by the porcupine’s quills.
Yet in addition to learning to hunt, the young wolverines become fighters, seemingly unafraid of any other animals in their realm – be they large or small, ferocious or quaint. Female wolverines have even been known to attack bears that threaten her young brood. There is however and luckily for that, no record what so ever of wolverines attacking human beings.
This animal, with amazing strength for its size, is capable of moving carcasses that outweigh it by many , many times. Three is even a record of one wolverine known to have dragged a dead “Dall” sheep a mile and a half across the most rugged of Canadian northern tundra, even though the sheep itself weighed five times as much as the wolverine animal. In addition wolverines have been known to reduce the contents of trapper’s cabins to nothing but sheer rubble. What a determined and dedicated creature.
By autumn, the young wolverine brood must themselves be able to care for themselves, because the female – their den mother casts them out into the world to yet resume her lonely life of solitary wandering and wanderings. Yet these travels may take her over the largest and widest of areas. Inuit aboriginals report that wolverines do seem to have regular routes which they follow in their hunting and huntings, and that only one in eight or ten days do they actually pass the same points in their travels yet again on their roundabout. If, in these travels the wolverine does discover a trapper’s trap line, it may well follow the trail methodically robbing each trap of its catch. In turn until the hunter either outwits the wolverine or more probably moves his trap line to a new location and set up range.
The wolverine, even in the severest climates, does not hibernate during the coldest winter seasons, but continues to roam ever searching for foodstuffs. The wolverine is a special prize for the northern hunter. Inuit cherish its fur, valued for use around parka hoods since it is well known among this ancient people – for Inuit itself translates to the phrase “The People”, that wolverine fur has the amazing ability not to collect frost itself.
Finally in North America, the range of wolverines extends from the Polar Islands south into the Canadian provinces. In the west these animals are also found in California, but they are rare. There are no longer wolverines east of the “Rocky Mountains”. Even in the best of northern wolverine country this powerful bear-like animal, with its bad temper and insatiable hunger populates its range rather thinly.
Jadran B. Transcona
Experienced outdoors wildlife fishing & hunting guide in the Lake Manitoba area