The largest member of the weasel family, the wolverine has a voracious appetite and eats every part of the animals that it hunts, including the teeth, fur, and bones. Wolverines are known for their aggressive attitudes and ferocious ways. Scientists have trouble studying these interesting animals because they are secretive and stealthy.
Scientific & Common Names
While the Blackfeet Indians called the wolverine the skunk bear, most people know this animal simply as a wolverine. The scientific name for the wolverine is Gulo gulo, which comes from the Latin word for glutton. They were named this because of their feeding habits.
Most wolverines weigh between 25 and 35 pounds, but some of them can weigh up to 60 pounds. They are about 14 to 17 inches tall at the shoulder, and they have thick, glossy black fur. Their fur also has silvery-white stripes running down the length of the body in a pattern that is reminiscent of skunks. Wolverines have thick, heavy skulls and powerful jaw muscles to help them tear apart prey. Wolverines have small heads, short muzzles, and small, rounded ears.
Wolverines mate in the warmer months, from April until August, beginning when they are about 2 years old. After mating, the egg does not implant in the female's uterus right away. The egg will only implant and begin to develop sometime between November and January. The time from implantation until birth is about 30 to 50 days. In early spring, a wolverine female will give birth to two or three cubs or kits. She gives birth and raises her young in a den that she has dug as deep as 15 feet into the snow. The kits remain with their mothers at least until fall, but sometimes young wolverines stay with their mothers for an entire year before moving away as adult wolverines.
Wolverines do live alone, but they also have a surprising social side of their personalities, because their territories often overlap. They also have a strong sense of family bonds, with adult male wolverines commonly interacting with their grown offspring. Wolverines are well adapted for very cold weather and snow, and they do not hibernate. They spend their days scavenging for food and hunting small animals.
Wolverines were respected and revered by Native American tribes because of their strength, endurance, and ferocity. In past years, wolverines lived throughout the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, the Cascades, in Northern Michigan, and in the Northeast.
Wolverines are found all over the world in places that have long, cold winters. They are common in the northern mountainous areas of the United States, most of Canada, Alaska, Russia, China, Sweden, and other parts of the northern hemisphere. Because of deforestation, global warming, and human development of the landscape, the natural habitats of wolverines are threatened.