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Wolverine: Fierce, Proud And Surprisingly Social - Yellow Magpie

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Published on May 11th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie


Wolverine: Fierce, Proud And Surprisingly Social


They are a strange animal. More akin to a bear than the family that they are related to. A fierce animal – they can tackle and kill creatures that are much larger than themselves. Although the chances are that when you see or hear the word, Wolverine, you will think of the comic book character but the real animal is much more remarkable.

Wolverines are supremely elusive, incredibly brave and thrive in cold conditions. In winter, when bears are hibernating because of the sub-zero temperatures, wolverines are out roaming the wilderness.

Specially Adapted

Wolvines are purpose-built for their lifestyle. Despite being less than a metre (three feet) in length and weighing as little as 15 kg (30 lbs),  their paws are roughly the same size as a human. This allows them to spread them out and take the least amount of pressure. Consequently, they can tread on snow that would cause other animals to sink.

The wolverines sharp and powerful claws offer excellent grip and allowing them to be expert climbers. They also use their claws to tackle their prey and defend themselves.

Their noses are extremely sensitive and they have been known to find the carcasses of dead animals buried under several metres of snow.

Wolverine fur provides incredible insulation and allows them to maintain a constant body temperature in the coldest of winters. Its hydrophobic characteristic means water, including frost and ice, does not stick to it, allowing the animal to also keep its body temperature constant.

Wolverine Photo By Birgit Fostervoid

A Fierce Attitude And ‘Gluttonous’ Appetite

Wolverines are famous for their attitude and they hardly ever back away from other animals, irrespective of size.

A member of the mustelid family, which includes otters and weasels, wolverines often feed on animals that are trapped and killed in avalanches. They also prey on mountain goats, and even have been seen killing animals as large as moose.

Wolverines eat virtually all of the animal, bones included. Perhaps it is because of this that they have been bestowed with the glutton moniker.

Surreptitious Creatures

The territories that wolverines could be found in used to be much greater than what it is now. In North America, the Wolverine could be found as far south as Mexico. Sightings of the elusive creatures are very rare and many natives who live in the same area may never see one throughout their lifetime.

The U.S. State of Michigan is a firm testament to their clandestine nature. Until 2004  not a single wolverine had been spotted in 200 years.  This pattern was also repeated in the Sierra Nevada in California where the first wolverine was photographed after more than 90 years.

Wolverine Photo By Steve Hillebrand

Strange Stride And Unique Chest

One of the most unusual aspects of wolverines is their gait. While moving, their hind feet are actually ahead of their forelegs. Scientists believe that this method of locomotion is much more efficient than a normal stride.

Wolverines often have brightly coloured chests. Their chest patterns are unique to each animal and individuals can be identified by comparing patterns.

An Extraordinary Territory

Wolverines occupy incredibly huge territories of up to 800 square kilometres (500 square miles). To give you some idea of just how large a range this is, for a relatively small animal, the much larger Grizzly Bear inhabits an area of land roughly half that size.

Through gathering wolverine DNA, scientists have found that one male and two to three females inhabit each wolverine territory.

It is clear that marking such large territories also plays an important role. Scientists studying their ranges have concluded that adults try to avoid overlapping territories at all costs. Memory and powerful scents, contained in anal glands, are believed to be the key to how individual territories are distinguished.

Socially Adept

Wolverines are much more social than their fearsome reputation suggests. They learn social skills from their parents and can spend over a year learning the necessary skills to be successful. Males also have been observed travelling from female to female helping their mates to rear the young.

Although their are a handful of wolverines in captivity successful breeding is very rare and only three or four cubs have ever been born.

Vital Statistics

  • Wolverines can be up to 80 centimetres (32 inches) in length.
  • Adult males, which are on average 30 per cent larger than the females, can weigh up to 30 kg (70lbs).
  • Wolverines are found in the northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere in places such as Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. Although they have been known to venture as far south as California.
  • It is not known what their population size is today. Estimates put it at 25 to 30,000.

Highly Recommended Get The Film Through Amazon

PBS’s Nature: Wolverine: Chasing The Phantom is a wonderful documentary that shows the animals, both wild and tame, up close.

You can obtain Nature: Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom here from Amazon.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom you can access Nature: Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom here.

For those living in Canada you can obtain Nature: Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom from here.

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