Wolverines (Gulo gulo) are the largest members of the weasel family, and are found throughout remote northern portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Slightly resembling a small bear and about as large as a medium-sized dog, wolverines are revered for their tenacity, courage and strength for their size.
Wolverines are strongly built animals, and are equipped with a few special characteristics that make them highly adapted to harsh winter environments. Their fur is thick and oily, and is resistant to frost, helping keep them warm. The wolverine is also equipped with special molars in its mouth that are pointed inward, allowing it to tear flesh and meat that is frozen solid. This allows the wolverine to scavenge for prey that is inedible to other predators. Wolverines in North America primarily scavenge for food; usually eating left over wolf kills. Asian and European wolverines are more active hunters, and all will occasionally feed on vegetation.
Each male wolverine requires a home range of at least 200 miles, with borders that do not overlap with any other males. His range will usually encompass the smaller ranges of 2-3 female wolverines with whom he has mated with for life, and he will visit each of them periodically for mating and social reasons. It is not uncommon for male wolverines to travel hundreds of miles in a just a few months.
Baby wolverines, called kits, are usually born 2-3 to a litter. They will likely be visited by their father within their first 10 weeks of life, and will be fully grown after one year. Six months after being born, many wolverines begin traveling with their fathers for a time, presumably to learn the ropes of hunting and scavenging. Wolverines live between 5-13 years and have no natural predators. However, excessive trapping in the 1800’s for their highly desirable pelts did reduce their population.
Wolverines seem to be fearless. There have been accounts of wolverines fighting off 500lb bears to protect a kill.
Although wolverines are often associated with Michigan, only one has been spotted in the state in over 200 years.
Wolverines are sometimes referred to as “skunk bears” due to the odor their scent glands can produce.
IUCN Red List