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Wolverine (Gulo gulo): The Glutton of the Wild

An amazing wolverine sighting on his left direction.

Retractable claws, small stature, and fierce temper, and no, we are not talking about the Marvel X-Man character. We are talking about the largest land-living species of the weasel family, the Wolverine. This mammal is only the size of a medium dog, but don’t let their size fool you; they are vicious and have unimaginable strength compared to their size.

A Tough Body Design

A big tough body design of a wolverine on a snowy field.

The Wolverine looks like a cross between a wolf and a small bear. With dark brown coarse fur, brown-black head, raccoon-like eyes, a longer snout, and a short body. Sometimes he sports a lighter golden stripe from his strong shoulders, traveling down his flanks and to the base of his tail.

His feet are like giant snowshoes; with each step, his toes spread, making it easy to walk on top of the snow. He has semi-retractable claws like a cat, striking, tearing, or climbing as needed. A tenacious mammal with the scientific name of Gulo gulo, which means glutton.

Are they gluttons? Let’s explore the eating habits of the Wolverine together.

Eating Habits

Wolverine (gulo gulo) eating and playing a holloween pumpkin.

The Wolverine has a reputation for being vicious; it has incredible strength and can kill an animal much bigger than itself. They are considered cruel animals. Paralyzing animals as large as a reindeer by biting the spine.

Yet not killing it until they are ready to eat the animal, allowing it to die as they consume it. Once they are full, they bury it under the snow, saving the rest for later. This has given them the added reputation of being greedy, as they do not share any meal.

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Wolverines have a keen sense of smell and can smell a dead animal even though frozen deep under the snow. This ability gives them more food than other animals attempting to survive in harsh weather. Not only can they smell, but they also have unique teeth, including an upper molar that is turned 90 degrees, which makes ripping flesh easier.

The teeth are so strong they can break and rip frozen meat from bones.

Wolverines Eat Almost Anything

Wolverines eats aggressively.

An Omnivore – or one that eats anything and they are not joking. A wolverine will eat anything from berries, nuts, and eggs to chomping through the bones and teeth of another animal; eating whatever is available; it is not fussy and can adapt to where it lives. Its favorite thing to eat is meat, and they will work to find it alive or dead.

The easiest to catch is smaller prey like snowshoe rabbits, mice, squirrels, beavers, foxes, and other small animals. Though if that animal catches the scent of this ravenous eater, they will leave the area. Wolverines are too large to survive on only small game.

Dead or alive is a prime target for this ravenous eater. The dead animal, called carrion, is abundant during hunting season. When the hunter guts the trophy deer, elk, or other species, the Wolverine soon follows, eating everything left.

Depending on the Wolverine’s region, he is known to kill or find dead animals. In the Arctic region, seal pups. Moose, caribou, Dall sheep, mountain goats, and mule deer in Canada. Though quite a scavenger, it will eat any animal it finds, and don’t think you can predict their hunting schedule.

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These creatures spend much of their day hunting and are known to sleep three hours, then hunt or scavenge for food for three to four hours. Making their pattern of pursuing very unpredictable to unknowing prey.

10 Interesting Facts about Wolverines

An awful face of a wolverine stepping on a stone.

  1. A tracking device was put on a Wolverine near Grand Teton National Park, and it was tracked walking 500 miles in just two months.
  2. The Wolverine was called “quickhatch” by the Native Americans, along with other names like skunk bear, cantankerous, mountain devil, and glutton. Due to his gluttonous eating, stinky smell, and small bear look.
  3. They stink like a skunk, but what you’re smelling is Musk Oil. A male will mark his territory during mating season to attract a female. He will also spray the area where he buried his food to keep other animals from stealing his saved dinner.
  4. They are solitary animals and prefer to be alone, away from people. They even stay away from other Wolverines, only pairing for a short mating season.
  5. Their coat repels rain and snow; it contains oil to make it hydrophobic – which means it repels water, keeping it warm and dry even in extreme temperatures.
  6. It will dig a den or tunnel in the snow to sleep. They will often store food in these tunnels to eat later.
  7. The male will mate with several females – which means it is a polygamous animal.
  8. Its predators are wolves, bears and the most dangerous predator is man. Due to the animal’s thick coats, they are hunted and the fur is used to make rugs and line the hoods of parkas. This has caused the Wolverine to become extinct in some areas.
  9. The ability to walk on top of snow gives them a clear advantage over a deer or elk that struggles to get through the deep snow. This ability makes a large animal no problem for the Wolverine.
  10. A mother wolverine will dig 15 feet under the snow to keep her “kits” safe from cold and predators.
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The last interesting fact that I will share is yes; the X-man, Wolverine, was modeled after the vicious, fierce-tempered, gluttonous mammal, the Wolverine. When Len Wein was propositioned to create this X-man character, he asked, “how will he scratch his nose? ” The real-life Wolverine has figured out that skill and many others. He lives on as a powerful creature eating his way through life.

Sources:

Animalia. (2021). Wolverine. Retrieved from Anamalia: https://animalia.bio/wolverine

Banci, V. (1994). Forest Service U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from Chapter 5: Wolverine: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/27330

Bradford, A. (2014, August 1). Facts About Wolverines. Retrieved from LiveScience: https://www.livescience.com/27461-wolverines.html

Colarado Parks & Wildlife. (2021, February 6). Wolverine. Retrieved from Colorado Parks & Wildlife: https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/Wolverine.aspx

Johnston, R. (2022, January 13). Wolverine’s Co-Creator Recreates First Appearance Hulk #181 Cover. Retrieved from Bleeding Cool: https://bleedingcool.com/comics/wolverine-co-creator-recreates-first-appearance-hulk-181-cover/#google_vignette

National Geograpic. (2022). Wolverine. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/facts/wolverine

Shields, J. (2020, September 14). Are Wolverines Dangerous? Retrieved from How Stuff Works: https://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/wolverines.htm