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The Amazing Wolverine

Marie studied at Michigan State University four years in English (creative writing). She writes content, poetry, and stories.

The wolverine, or Gulo gulo, is most closely related to the marten, both members of the Mustelidae  (weasel) family.

The wolverine, or Gulo gulo, is most closely related to the marten, both members of the Mustelidae (weasel) family.

Some Wolverine Facts

Life expectancy: 7-12 yrs

Weight: 24-66 lbs (11-30 kg)

Shoulder ht: 14-17 in (36-43 cm)

Head-body: 26-36 in (66-91 cm)

Tail length: 5-10 in (13-25 cm)

Author's Prologue

I grew up in the State of Michigan, whose nickname is "The Wolverine State." In the 1600s, the wolverine was trapped for its fur, and the main trade center for this activity was Sault Ste. Marie, a city in the Upper Peninsula.

Later in life, I watched an interesting documentary on television about wolverines and their aggressive, relentless tenacity. Pound-for-pound, the wolverine has to be one of the most efficacious predator in the wild from its ability to stay atop of snow and eat every bit of its food, including the bones!

In this hub article, it is my wish that the reader become acquainted with this unique mammal and add to his or her appreciation of nature's creatures.

Linked Topics

  1. How many kinds of wolverines are there?
  2. What do wolverines eat?
  3. Wolverine Stories (Sasha, Bruno, and Ginger)
  4. Scientific and Some Common Wolverine Names
  5. Wolverine Population

Where do wolverines live?

Wolverines do best in remote areas away from humans. They range as far south as some northern states of the U.S. and as far north as the subarctic regions, such as Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. Below is a map showing the wolverines' ranges.

The red area marks the range of the wolverine.

The red area marks the range of the wolverine.

How many kinds of wolverines are there?

There appear to be five major species:

  1. Gulo gulo katschemakensis of Matschie, Kenai (see lead photo, above)
  2. Gulo gulo luscus of North America (see photo below)
  3. Gulo gulo luteus of Elliot, California (2nd thumbnail)
  4. Gulo gulo vancouverensis of Goldman, Vancouver Island (3rd thumbnail)
  5. Gulo gulo gulo of Eurasia (last thumbnail)

What do wolverines eat?

Wolverines are omnivores, but have canine teeth for tearing. Like a bear, the wolverine will eat berries and edible plants, but its main staple is meat, which may take the form of a small mouse or rabbit--or a larger mammal, such as a deer, elk, caribou, or even moose!

In the wintertime, wolverines will eat hibernating animals and dead carrion, including bones and teeth. Bones contain minerals and fat that helps maintain body temperature in freezing environs, where temperatures can easily fall to -20° F (a town in Russian Siberia experienced a record low of -90° F in 1933).

A Domesticated Wolverine

Commentary on Video

If Jasper had not been raised from a kit and bottle-fed, it is unlikely that thisvideo would even have been made. A follow-up video to Jasper is on YouTube showing how he is able to pull a grown man out of a mock avalanche situation. Speculation is being made about the possibility of training wolverines for just such emergencies because of their uncanny ability to smell through up to 20 feet of snow. If you are interested, the video showing Jasper's rescue technique can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNgv3opJqoQ.

Wolverine Stories

Sasha, a Wolverine Mother

My name is Sasha; I'm a wolverine living in Siberia. I like the cold, and my wide paws keep me from falling through the snow.

I share my 75-square-mile territory with the father of my kits and can bear as many as three litters over a five-year-period. You humans do not know much about my mating habits, and this is just as well, because i prefer to remain discrete on the subject. I will tell you this, however: I carry my kits inside me for one to almost two months* before they are born, and I usually have two or three kits during the spring season.

In spite of my reputation for being ferocious, I am a dedicated mother and will use my uncanny instinct to find a place where the snow will remain deep into the month of May. Because the seasons keep changing, finding such a place can be quite tricky; however, I always rise to the occasion. Once I have found that spot in early February, I will use my 20 sharp, quarter-inch claws to dig a burrow 10-20 feet deep into the snow where my kits will be safe. Nursing the little ones pretty much ends with the snow melt.

I only have one or two other female wolverines for neighbors, and we respect each other's space while tolerating occasional crossings as may be necessary when scavenging or hunting for food.

*Author's note: There is disagreement among researchers about the length of the wolverine's gestation period. Some smaller mammals in the Mustelidae family, such as the skunk, ferret, and mink have a short gestation, similar to the above. However, the larger mustelids, such as the otter, marten, and stoat may take 9-10 months for the embryos to develop. This latter figure was given by at least one resource as the wolverine's gestation period.

The wolverine, as well as some other mustelids, have a delayed implantation. They are said to mate in mid-summer, but kits are not born until the following winter or spring.

Scientific and Some Common Wolverine Names

  • scientific name comes from Latin gulo meaning "glutton"
  • alteration of "wolvering," an off-beat variation of "wolf" (orig. 1565-75)
  • also called "carcajou," a French-Canadian term from the Montangais language of the Innu
  • skunk bear, due to foul-smelling anal glands
  • bear cat, due to resemblance of a small bear
  • mountain cat, from the Old Swedish fjellfräs
  • ahma, derived from Finnish ahmatti, also meaning "glutton," similar to he Estonian ahm
  • Polish and Czech rosomak, meaning "fat belly"

Bruno, a Wolverine Father

I am called Bruno, a very masculine name, to describe my hang-tough nature. My ancestor is the Ice Age weasel. At 38 pounds, I can easily climb 4,900 feet of mountainous terrain in an hour-and-a-half and will not hesitate to challenge a grizzly bear. (I have been called "Bad-Ass Bruno" by a naturalist for this reason.)

My average speed over the snow is about four miles per hour, regardless of the weather. I can jump and climb trees. I will stop at nothing for a meal, dead or alive. I am valuable because I help nature to clean out hurt or weak animals that compromise the overall health of a particular species. I keep carcasses from building up, and this helps keep the ecosystem clean and healthy.

I allow no other adult male wolverine in my 500-square mile territory, but I do allow two or three females, each separate in her own area, within my domain. I also take time to teach my half-dozen offspring foraging and hunting skills while taking them to the best sites for food.

At two-and-a-half years of age, I am in the prime of my life. I can figure out how to get a carcass that is out of reach. My sense of smell is uncanny, allowing me to detect carrion up to 20 feet below the snow.

Although I scavenge and hunt mainly at night, should you ever run into me in the wild, you'd be wise to stay out of my way and just observe me from a distance.

Ginger, a Wolverine Kit

I'm Ginger, cute and spicy in demeanor. At birth, I am blind and weigh less than a pound. I usually have at least one other brother or sister, sometimes two, but there can be as many as four others. I need to be fed and cleaned about every four hours. My siblings and I keep mother very busy.

When mother approaches for feeding, you might hear me make a vocal argh-argh-argh that sounds a bit like a dog begging. I grow quickly and reach adulthood in about eight months. During my first year, I stay within my parents' territory and take hunting lessons from my father.

I am curious and agile; I love water. My oily fur provides excellent insulation to keep me warm in extreme cold. The fur is so efficient, I don't even melt the snow when I lie on it. No wonder you humans sometimes trap us.

Because I don't waste my food, my tummy feels like gravel from the bones I ingest.

Very few of us have been born in captivity, and our numbers have dwindled greatly since the 17th century. Our population seems to be stable in remote areas, but our winter and forest domains are changing. You humans don't really know how many of us there are because we are so hard to find and track.

Wolverine Population

The total Canadian wolverine population is estimated between 15,000 and 19,000 specimens and seems to be holding its own. Alaska harbors some 4,500 to 5,000 wolverines, while the total number in the lower 48 United States is only estimated at a few hundred.

Russia has a little under 3,000 wolverines in the regions of Taiga, Komi, Nenetsky, and Kola Peninsula, and the numbers seem to be declining.

In Scandinavia, the wolverine population is "vulnerable" in Sweden and "endangered" in Finland and Norway. Scandinavians experience a conflict between animal husbandmen and the wolverine, who has been known to prey upon domestic goats and sheep.

What do You Think?

Credits and Resources

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/wolverine/ (Wolverine Facts)

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/wolverine-chasing-the-phantom/wolverine-facts/6049/ (Additional Facts)

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1537&context=parasitologyfacpubs (Reproduction of Wolverines)

http://wolverinefoundation.org/conservation (Wolverine Protection)

The stories of Sasha, Bruno, and Ginger are my own creative work based on research.

© 2014 Marie Flint


Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 21, 2018:

Yes, Eric. I suspect the wolverine has an olfactory system similar to a dog's. Different animals have different ways of interpreting stimuli. I remember reading about catfishes; they are pretty amazing too!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 20, 2018:

We are debating the "best smellers". These guys can smell over 15 feet through snow and ice. How amazing!

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 20, 2018:

Thank you for coming back to this article, Eric. I appreciate the read and comment.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 19, 2018:

Fantastic just read it with my son. My favorite animal. Thanks again.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 19, 2018:

I had to delete one video about the wolverine's dominance in a fight with a wolf due to the fact the video is no longer available. It had depicted the wolverine's relentless aggression with an animal far larger than its size.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on July 14, 2015:

I suspect they were more domesticated, Peach. It would be interesting to see the movie that you watched.

Thank you for reading and commenting!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 14, 2015:

The real wolverine are different from the movies we watched

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on May 24, 2015:

The wolverine is an incredible animal, Buildreps. Thank you for taking the time to read this hub article. Blessings!

Buildreps from Europe on May 21, 2015:

Very interesting Hub, Marie. I knew just a little about the 'Wolverines' as you call it, but this adds much more to my knowledge! Thanks.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 29, 2014:

Thank you for taking the time to visit, read, and comment, Alastar. I'm pleased you learned something about the wolverine. Nature has so many fascinating animals.


Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 29, 2014:

What an impressive bio you have, Marie. Wolverines are far from these parts and I didn't really know much about these remarkably tenacious animals. What a powerful sense of smell too --twenty feet of snow, whew. Much improved in the knowledge now of wolverines thanks to you!

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on June 20, 2014:

Thank you for the read and comment, Cecile. I've just returned from a two-week stay in my hometown area. While I didn't see any wolverines, I do remember that, at one time in the past, the critter was considered Michigan's state animal.

Cecile Portilla from West Orange, New Jersey on June 04, 2014:

Great hub Marie. Very informative. I did not know much about these amazing creatures. I like the way that you personalized the wolverines and made their stories entertaining. The videos were both interesting. Voted up!

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on May 30, 2014:

Hey, Jodah! Yeah, hub scores don't mean a whole lot. Initial scores, I think are probably based on a subjective look-and-see plus word count. After that, traffic influences the score. I've come to the conclusion, though, that low scores shouldn't necessitate deleting a hub because no one ever knows when the topic will suddenly become hot.

Yes, MixBejabbers, the father goes from family to family to train the kits. The female adults, from what I understand, don't interact during training. It's totally a "dad" thing. Kits will tolerate one another because they play a lot, and playing is part of how they develop their survival skills. So, the dad can actually handle up to five kits, which is the maximum known birth count that researchers have determined so far.

An amazing creature for will power--I wouldn't mind having some of that self-determination myself (not that I plan to tackle any grizzly bears)!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 30, 2014:

Very good. I’m glad to read this hub because living in the Southern U.S., we have no experience with wolverines. I enjoyed both videos. I’m not sure that I would trust the tameness of a bottle-fed one. I was surprised in the second video that the wolf backed off. I thought there would be a fight to the death. I love the way you personalized the stories of the mama, papa, and baby wolverine. Am I correct in thinking that the two or three females allowed in the males territory mate with the male and that the male teaches all the children from his “harem” to hunt? If so, are the litters staggered, and if not, does he combine litters for the schooling? Now you’ve roused my curiosity. Voted up++

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on May 30, 2014:

Hi Marie, I have always found the wolverine to be a fascinating creature and very fearless for its size. I like how you individualised the male, female and kit wolverines. It sounds as though their population is holding it's own in Canada and Alaska at least, which is good. It's a pity it didn't receive a higher hub score. That still baffles me. I wrote one hub recently that took my Hubber score up from 88 to 92, but it dropped back to 87 within three days. I can't keep it above 90, no matter what I do. Anyway I enjoyed this hub, voted up.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on May 30, 2014:

Thank you, Eric. I took time to calculate the square miles of Alaska and divide that by the number of wolverines per square mile, as given by resources, to come up with the wolverine population figure for Alaska.

I also decided that I didn't want the hub to sound like a report, so I got creative with personifying individual, albeit fictional, wolverines with made up names to get the statistical information across.

I have to write one more animal hub to reach my goal of six hubs for my "animal" group category. HP gave me just an average score on this one, which I don't think reflects my effort. (Oh, well . . . onto the next hub!)

Thank you so much for the read and comment, however brief. I appreciate those four little words very much. ***

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 30, 2014:

Very cool, great hub.