Wolverine Fact File
Wild 4-6 years
Captive 13 years
Other Animals, Fruit
Wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family despite their appearance which resembles a small bear. They are covered by a thick coat of fur which keeps them warm in their cold environments.
They are found in cold, northern areas of North America, Europe and Asia.
These animals are considered omnivorous and feed on prey up to the size of a deer along with seasonal fruits and berries. The larger food items will be buried and dug up multiple times to ensure a supply of food.
Learn more about these mammals by reading on.
The wolverine is a large, carnivorous mammal with a heavily built body covered by a thick coat of fur. This fur is colored blackish brown across much of the body except for a pale stripe down the side of the body. A white chest patch is also present in some individuals.
Their coat keeps them warm in the cold, northern areas which they inhabit. It prevents snow and ice from getting close to the skin which helps to prevent heat loss.
This thick fur is hydrophobic (water repelling) which prevents them from becoming cold.
At the end of the short, powerful limbs are broad feet which act as snowshoes to carry them against the snow without falling in. This gives them an advantage when hunting prey which are unsteady on the snow.
The short legs, small ears and neck provide less surface area from which heat can be lost.
Their body ends with a fluffy tail of between 17 and 26cm (6.5-10in) long.
Males wolverines are up to a third larger than females.
Wolverines are omnivores with their diet made up of animal prey such as rodents, sheep and up to the size of a deer or moose. Seasonal fruit and berries are also consumed.
They will scavenge for carrion and when their is too much feed for them to eat at once they may store their prey for future use. To help find food they have buried they have a keen sense of smell.
They have a strong jaw which allows them to crush frozen meat or bones.
Wolverines have a wide range across the cold, northern regions of Asia, Europe and North America.
Here they are residents in the following countries – Canada; China; Finland; Mongolia; Norway; Russia; Sweden and the United States. Occasionally populations will move in to Estonia.
The wolverine will make its home in alpine, tundra, taiga and boreal forest habitats. Areas they inhabit require snow fall each year.
They will not enter areas with heavy human activity which have seen large amounts of roads and infrastructure development.
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Breeding occurs from early spring to late Autumn. Males may mate with multiple females in each breeding season.
A period of delayed implantation may occur between mating and the beginning of development to ensure birth occurs at the best time.
Females give birth to between one and five young in each litter within their underground den. Young will suckle milk from their mother for between 8 and 10 weeks.
Sexual maturity is reached at 2.5 years old.
Wolverines are primarily considered to be nocturnal.
They are primarily considered solitary.
A wolverine will form a den in among roots or rocks. It may also be dug in to the snowdrift. Their tunnels may reach up to 2m (6.5ft) in length.
Males and females both form a home range which they defend. The range of a male will overlap that of many females.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the wolverine include wolves and bears.
Wolverines are threatened by fragmentation of their habitat and the lowering of their genetic diversity which comes with this. In parts of their range significant evidence of in-breeding is present.
They are also subject to retaliatory killings for taking domestic species such as sheep and reindeer.
This species is subject to significant hunting. Previously they were targeted in large numbers for their fur.
Due to their reliance on deep snow for the digging of their den they may be impacted by climate change.
Wolverines are also known as the glutton which is a reference to their voracious appetite and ability to eat anything it can capture. Another name used for this species is the skunk bear.
While their appearance looks like a small bear the wolverine is actually more closely related to badgers and otters.
The wolverine is the second biggest species of mustelid after the giant otter.
Roy Andersen/Norsk institutt for naturforskning, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Zefram, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons
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