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Wolverine

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Photo: Wolverine on a rock

Photo: Wolverine on a rock (View larger version)

Photograph courtesy National Park Service

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The wolverine is a powerful animal that resembles a small bear but is actually the largest member of the weasel family.

These tough animals are solitary, and they need a lot of room to roam. Individual wolverines may travel 15 miles (24 kilometers) in a day in search of food. Because of these habitat requirements, wolverines frequent remote boreal forests, taiga, and tundra in the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America.

Wolverines eat a bit of vegetarian fare, like plants and berries, in the summer season, but this does not make up a major part of their diet—they are tenacious predators with a taste for meat. Wolverines easily dispatch smaller prey, such as rabbits and rodents, but may even attack animals many times their size, such as caribou, if the prey appears to be weak or injured. These opportunistic eaters also feed on carrion—the corpses of larger mammals, such as elk, deer, and caribou. Such finds sustain them in winter when other prey may be thinner on the ground, though they have also been known to dig into burrows and eat hibernating mammals.

Males scent-mark their territories, but they share them with several females and are believed to be polygamous. Females den in the snow or under similar cover to give birth to two or three young each late winter or early spring. Kits sometimes live with their mother until they reach their own reproductive age—about two years old.

Wolverines sport heavy, attractive fur that once made them a prime trapper's target in North America. Their fur was used to line parkas, though this practice is far less common today and the animals are protected in many areas.

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