Skunk bear, glutton, carcajou, quickhatch.... the wolverine (Gulo gulo) is known by different names within its vast geographical range which spans across the northern hemisphere - right from Alaska to Siberia. While most of the people out there know that wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family or that it is quite ferocious in nature, not much is known about the natural habitat of this species - other than their geographical expanse. Basically, wolverine habitat spans the taiga as well as subarctic and alpine tundra regions of the northern hemisphere.
What is the Habitat of the Wolverine?
Starting with the geographical range, the wolverine is known to inhabit the northern boreal forests of Alaska, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Siberia, etc. Other than these regions, rare sightings of this animal are also reported from countries like Mongolia and China. These regions of the world are typically characterized by extremely cold climate which the wolverine has adapted to over the course of time. The characteristic vast geographical expanse of the wolverine animal habitat can be attributed to the fact that this animal is a wanderer, which easily covers 15-20 miles a day in search of food.
The natural habitat of a wolverine can be divided into two groups - the tundra habitat and the taiga habitat, with the animal frequenting between the two on the basis of season (summer in tundra and winter in taiga) and food availability. While the tundra biome is ideal in summer - with several herbivores coming out from hibernation, the conditions here are inhospitable in winter and this prompts the wolverine to move down south towards the boreal forests or taiga biome. When the harsh winter season is over, the wolverine returns to its favorite hunting ground - the snow clad tundra wherein it can even take on an animal as large as a caribou.
Even though the wolverine is not quite reclusive as such, it prefers to stay in remote areas devoid of human inhabitation. The home range for the individuals of this species is very vast, with the same for an adult male wolverine often exceeding 250 sq miles with ease. In females, the range is comparatively less at 50-100 sq miles for an adult female. While the range of a male encompasses that of several females, neither males nor females are known to encroach upon the range of other members of the same sex. While the fact that these animals don't overlap each others range may dismiss the chances of conflicts within species by a great extent, the vast expanse of their range often puts them in direct conflict with humans - who have encroached upon their natural habitat, thus resulting in casualties on both sides.
Range Reduction and Habitat Fragmentation
Though the wolverines continue to enjoy the 'Least Concern' status as per the data compiled by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), wildlife experts are of the opinion that their population in wild has come down by a significant extent over the last decade or so. While the initial decline in wolverine population was attributed to large-scale hunting of this animal back in the 19th and 20th century when they were considered pests, the few remaining individuals are facing the heat in the wake of range reduction and habitat fragmentation as a result of human encroachment.
While environmentalists are lobbying for the inclusion of wolverines as an 'Endangered Species' in the IUCN Red List, their efforts haven't yielded any positive results as of today. At the same time, the lack of information on wolverine animal habitat is also a major hindrance when it comes to conservation as it makes it difficult for the concerned authorities to come up with proper conservation measures to save the species. The decline in wolverine population is surely a matter of concern, and if it continues unabated, it is bound to trigger a series of problems in the tundra and taiga ecosystems wherein this animal has a crucial role to play as a primary consumer and scavenger.