Within the Mustelidae family, the wolverine (Gulo gulo) is the largest land-dwelling species. It is an isolated animal that is a muscular carnivore. The wolverine is known for having strength and fury unmatched by its size, and it has been shown to be capable of taking down prey far larger than itself.
Wolverines resemble dogs, bears, and skunks, among other animals. They have small legs, long hair, and long snouts. Despite having short legs, these animals can climb high cliffs, forests, and snow-covered peaks with remarkable ease thanks to their big, five-toed feet with claws resembling crampons and plantigrade posture. Wolverines are resistant to frost because of their thick, dark, greasy, and extremely hydrophobic fur. A pale buff stripe crosses the rump just above a bushy tail that measures 25–35 cm (10–14 in) in length. Some individuals have a noticeable light-silvery face mask. Some people have noticeable patches of white hair on their chests or throats. Like other mustelids, wolverines have a unique upper molar in the back of the mouth that has been turned 90 degrees to face the interior. Wolverines are able to rip meat from frozen-solid prey or carrion thanks to their unique trait.
Wolverines live in the Arctic and subarctic, Alpine forests, grasslands, taiga, tundra, and boreal forests of northern North America, as well as parts of Asia and Europe. They favor cooler climates. They inhabit alpine and subarctic tundra, mountainous regions, and boreal woodlands.
Habits and Lifestyle
Wolverines do not hibernate since they are acclimated to the winter. Aside from mating, they spend most of their time alone. Similar to skunks, wolverines exude a pungent odor that serves as a warning to others to stay out of their territory. In order to deter others from raiding their hidden food sources, they also mist the areas. Wolverines may spend three to four hours of the day active and another three to four hours sleeping when there are extended periods of light or darkness. They are fast climbers and have great swimming abilities.
Diet and Nutrition
Wolverines are both carnivorous and scavengers. Aside from carrion, they frequently consume small game such as ground squirrels and rats, as well as occasionally berries and the eggs of birds. Large game such as moose, caribou, and mountain goats are among their diet. Wolverines often save food during periods of abundance.
Wolverines have several sexes. They mate from May to August but do not develop pair bonds. The females then construct dens, which are often caverns carved out of the snow that are occasionally as deep as fifteen feet, to raise their young. The typical litter size is two or three kits, and gestation is over two months. Though occasionally males stop by to tend to the young, females handle the majority of childrearing. Young begin to forage on their own around 5 to 7 months after weaning at 3 months. Around age two, wolverines reach reproductive maturity.
Climate change is the wolverines’ greatest threat. Warmer weather reduces the amount of snowfall, which is necessary for wolverines to reproduce and find food. Because of their ability to withstand frost, their fur is highly valued and can be sought. Wolves, mountain lions, brown bears, black bears, and golden eagles are some of their natural predators.
Wikipedia states that it is unknown how many wolverines there are in the globe. The IUCN estimates that the population of Europe is currently estimated at 2,260 individuals: 1,400 in European Russia, 150 in Finland, 326 (±45) in Sweden, and 269 (±32) in Norway. The estimated number of wolverines in Canada is between 15,000 and 19,000 individuals. The wolverine is classified as “Least Concern” by the ICUN, and its population is trending downward.
Because they consume the carcasses of wolves and bears, wolverines are scavengers that contribute to the health of the ecosystem. There are not many natural predators for them. Both big and small animals are their prey. When the snow prevents them from hunting huge prey directly, they depend on other large predators to feed them. Black-tailed deer and snowshoe hares are discouraged from eating on and being around wolves by wolves’ urine.
Fun Facts for Kids
- Wolverines’ powerful jaws and teeth allow them to consume bones.
- Wolverines have paws that expand to about double their body size as they walk, which acts as natural snowshoes.
- The wolverine’s scientific name, “Gulo gulo,” is derived from the Latin word “gulo,” which means “glutton.”
- Wolverines can easily tear apart flesh because of a unique type of upper molar that is turned 90 degrees.