Resembling a small bear, the wolverine is actually the largest species of the weasel family. The interesting facts about this animal don’t just end there though, and that isn’t surprising considering it is one of the little studied members of kingdom Animalia.
Most of the people tend to associate wolverine with wolves, because of its common name, and bears, because of its striking resemblance to the members of family Ursidae (i.e. the bear family). The fact, however, is that wolverine is neither related to wolves, nor related to bears.
“Looks can be deceptive”; this quote is perfect to describe an animal like wolverine (Gulo gulo). The wolverine is just the size of a Cocker Spaniel or a Beagle (dog breeds), but has enough muscular strength to defend itself against other predators and bring down an animal as large as the caribou. Although it weighs somewhere around 20-50 lb, it has the ability of defending its food from a pack of wolves, cougars, and grizzly bears. Relative to its size, it is thought to be the strongest animal amongst mammals. There are lot more riveting facts about this weasel species, each more interesting than the other.
10 Facts about Wolverines
- A wolverine’s fur is brownish-black in color with light brown stripes along the sides. Its fur is dense and long, and resists water, that helps the wolverine tolerate the cold and frost of the environment it inhabits.
- Wolverines have a stocky build with powerful limbs, a large head, a short tail and small ears. Its feet are equipped with pads and large claws, which enable it to traverse through heavy snow.
- Basically solitary, the wolverine requires a lot of space to roam, and has been known to travel 15-20 miles a day looking for food. As a matter of fact, some animals have been tracked over the snow for 60-80 kilometers.
- For food, they attack caribou herds when they migrate and feed on the carcasses that bears and wolves leave behind. Because of their requirement for large ranges of habitat, wolverines can be found in the remote regions of the Tundra, Taiga, and Boreal forests in the northern parts of North America, Asia, and Europe. In fact, they have a penchant for areas that are uninhabited by humans.
- Similar to other weasels, the wolverine, by nature, is curious, daring and tough. It is an omnivorous animal, feeding on a variety of food. In summers, wolverines eat berries, edible roots and various plants, which is only a small part of their diet. Being tenacious predators, they travel great distances to get their main food, i.e., meat.
- While smaller-sized prey like rodents and rabbits are easy fare for the animal, if given the opportunity it will set upon animals that are much larger in size, like deer and caribou. And, as mentioned above, they are also opportunistic feeders that eat animals which have been killed by other predatory animals, like caribou, deer and elk. In fact, eating carrion helps them to survive the winter, when food can be scarce. They even dig into the snow to find and eat hibernating animals.
- The wolverine is basically a terrestrial animal; however, it is very good at climbing trees and is also a powerful swimmer. It has great stamina and uses a fast lope to travel great distances without breaking for rest.
- Though being nocturnal, if the wolverine finds itself in regions of extended darkness or daylight, it will change its pattern of being awake and sleeping. Like the bears, this animal has poor eyesight, but its hearing and smelling senses are very good.
- The males use their scent glands to mark out their territory, sometimes even marking their caches of food. They are said to be polygamous and hence, share their territory with a number of females. Although they are solitary animals, members of the family do play with each other.
- Female wolverines dig underground in order to give birth to their young ones, which usually are 2 to 3 at a time, either in early spring or late winter. The young ones stay with their mothers until they are two years of age, when they mature enough to reproduce themselves.
Wolverines manage to survive in tough conditions and reproduce at a good speed. In the past, they were hunted on a large scale for their beautiful coat which was used as a lining for parkas. That, however, has changed with the wolverine being given protective status in several regions. On the basis of estimated population, it is enlisted as a ‘Least Concerned’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) today.