Wild Files-It’s our Nature

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

While at first glance a wolverine may look like a mixture between a skunk and a mini bear, they are the biggest members of the weasel family. There are two different subspecies of the wolverine: the Eurasian and the American wolverine.  The latter is the one we see across North America and throughout the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa Peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples of B.C.  

Elongated, wolverines are low to the ground with strong limbs and a round head and ears, and small beady eyes. They have large, five-toed paws. Adult wolverines are an average of 113 cm in length. Males weigh nearly 30 kg; females average 19 kg.  Their paws and posture make it ideal to trek through snow and up mountains and steep cliffs. Their dark, oily fur is resistant to frost, which has made their fur a popular lining for winter coats. 

Wooing in the winter

Male wolverines, known as hobbs, are polygamous and will woo many females, known as jills, during the winter months. In the spring, jills will birth a litter of one to four babies, called kits, in tunnels or basins that are highly elevated. Kits are born fully furred and with eyes closed and with their teeth not yet protruding.  

Gluttons for punishment

Wolverines are called gluttons because of their scavenging traits, or a quickhatch which is borrowed from the East Cree word, kwiihkwahaacheew. Wolverines are known to be ferocious, extremely muscular with strength beyond their size, and tend to be loners. They are fearless when facing some of their predators such as mountain lions, wolves, bears and of course, people. Being omnivores, wolverines will feast on both meat and vegetation; they prefer the former.  They like large game such as moose, caribou, and mountain goats and will go after smaller animals such as foxes, ground squirrels and rodents. They are not known to attack humans unprovoked. Highly adaptable, wolverines will travel treacherous terrain up to 24 kilometres (km) a day in search of small game or carrion, whether they slay or scavenge it. They’re known for their jaws of steel and tough teeth.

Making a pack

A group of wolverines is known as a pack. Young male wolverines like to hang out near their dad in their later years. The average life span of a wolverine in the wild is 13 years, however females in captivity live an average of 17 years. Wolverines are currently on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (list) in Canada, which ensures their protection and that of their habitats such as the Columbia Lake North wetlands near Fairmont, B.C.  Researchers at Wolverinewatch.org, an informal organization, strive to educate while protecting the wolverine population and their dens. Currently, researchers are looking at their reproduction, connectivity and distribution habits throughout the East Kootenays and along the upper Columbia River. 

Wise Wolverines

Wolverines are known to be very clever when it comes to their survival. Some speed up travel times when on missions for dinner or refuge; they’ll take the road more travelled such as highways and other paved paths. They have been drawn to play with toys and objects. In Indigenous cultures they symbolize strength, courage, and endurance. This wise weasel not afraid to stand its ground.