THE WOLVERINE EATS PRIMARILY FROM CARCASSES that he finds while following the trails of wolves, lynxes, bears, humans and foxes. He does so hoping to find remainings of their preys. During wintertime, the Nordic wolverines mainly feed from reindeer, both those he finds as carcasses and the ones he kills himself. In summertime, the wolverine becomes an omnivore, eating small mammals (particularly small lambs), birds, roots, green vegetables, blueberries and lingonberries. The wolverine has a particular liking to bird eggs. Like squirrels, the wolverine builds up a food store, which it digs down in the snow, alternatively hides it in the crevices of rocks or higher up in a tree. The wolverine can carry large chunks of meat, weighing as much as the animal itself, over long distances.
In Norway the wolverine kills many sheep, much to the distress of their owners.
AN ANIMAL THAT HAS BEEN KILLED, can often be recognized as the victim of a wolverine when it has been bitten in the neck and when there is a lot of blood in the trail.
THE COMMON IMAGE ABOUT THE WOLVERINE has always been that of an immoderately gluttonous animal, that often kills just for the pleasure of killing. The ancient Swedish name of the wolverine is filfras, which originates from the German Vielfrass, meaning “big eater”. In French it is called le Glouton “the Gluttonous”. It was also considered to be aggressive and dangerous to humans. The image however was due to scarce knowledge and the minimal research about the wolverine’s behavior. In reality, the wolverine s not a very good hunter; also, there is no evidence of wolverines attacking human beings in non-provocative situations. The wolverine is rather sort of “the hyena of the North”, feeding partly on carcasses that were left behind by wolves and lynxes. In some cases researchers have followed wolverines more than a 180 km without finding a single place where the wolverine had attacked other animals. Would they have been following lynxes over the same distance, they certainly would have been able to identify numerous sites where such animals had attacked and killed mammals.
When the frozen crust of the snow can carry the weight of the wolverine, but not that of a reindeer, the former gets into an advantageous position. It then can happen that the wolverine kills and damages a large number of cattle in one stroke of attacks. The same goes for the situation when the ground is covered with a deep layer of loose snow. For the cattle owners, after the wolf, the wolverine is it’s four footed enemy number 1. Of all reindeer killed and damaged in the period 1994/1995, half of them is estimated to have become the victims of wolverines.
WHILE FEEDING FROM CARCASSES wolverines have shown defensive aggressiveness towards bigger predators; also it has been seen to frighten away young bears from their newly killed preys.
- “Under extreme conditions of newly fallen snow, certain wolverines succeed in killing or damaging a dozen reindeer in just a couple of days”. The quotation comes from the Swedish wolverine researcher Jens Persson from the Zoological Institute at the Agricultural University of Umeå.
- But, there exist also wolverines that attack only one or two reindeer during a whole year.
- In North America, the number of conflicting situations between wolverines and humans is far lower, than in the Nordic Countries. They do not keep, however, the large number of (reindeer) cattle as we do in the Nordic Countries.
THE WOLVERINE IS IN THE NORDIC COUNTRIES THE BIGGEST ANIMAL IN THE MARTER FAMILY. The shape of the body looks like a cross breed between a badger and a marter. When seen from a longer distance the wolverine even assimilates small bears. However, it moves with jogging, half circular jumping movements. The bear demonstrates a heavier, more lumbering way of walking.
Moreover, the wolverine has a long and bushy tail. The neck is thick and short. The snout looks like that of a badger. It ends in a long snub nose, with strong jaws. The paws, equipped each with 5 white/yellow claws, are big and flat like snowshoes. Along the legs and thighs there is often a stripe of lighter hair. Notwithstanding its clumsy way of moving along, the wolverine is a good tree climber. The most well developed sense is that of smelling, however, the wolverine possesses excellent senses of sight and hearing.
Mating season and cubs.
The mating period ranges from April into August. The cubs do not start growing in the mother body before the turn of the year. Time of birth normally is in February – March. When in the mountains, the wolverine prefers to dig a nest deep down in the snow, beyond the tree limit. The wolverine normally gives birth to 2 – 3 cubs, more seldom even 4. Compared to other predators, like wolf and lynx, the wolverine has a lower rate of propagation in the Nordic area. This is the consequence of later sexual maturity of the females (from the third year on). Moreover, they give birth only once every second year. The rate of mortality among the cubs is high.
The wolverine keeps to wider home ground areas than would be expected from its size. There are differences in the sizes of home ground areas between males and females. The sizes are approx. 300 km2 for a male and 100 km2 for a female wolverine.