Most people know Wolverine as the famous Marvel Comics character, played by the hunk himself Hugh Jackman in the movie series, who kills with his fiery claws like no one else. He is lethal, arrogant and normally quiet but when he fights, he becomes ferocious! But Wolverine the character is actually inspired by an animal with the same name. Didn’t know that? Well, keep up with me as I bring 11 facts about the ferocious Wolverine animal that you may not have known.
11. It belongs to the Mustelidae family
Thought it was a wolf? Yes, me too. But turns out the real-life Wolverine is the largest dwelling species of the Mustelidae family, which also includes other mammals like weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens and minks. It has a sturdy build with short legs, a comparatively small rounded head and a bushy tail and has small eyes and ears. Because of its appearance, it is often mistaken for other animals like the American badger, a bear cub, the hoary marmot or even a red fox. Confusion justified.
10. It is called gulo gulo
The scientific name of the wolverine is gulo gulo, which is Latin for the word ‘glutton’. It is called so because of its ferocious nature. Yes, very short tempered. Just like Logan. Not only that, it has a very ferocious appetite too. It is omnivorous in nature and its diet includes various species of deer, foxes, porcupines, squirrels, beavers (yes eats its lookalikes), rabbits, voles, lemmings and mice to birds, bird eggs and, if it has to, even berries. And when it eats, it eats gluttonously, leaving nothing behind which is justified because according to scientists, this habit could be the result of the shortage of food in the wolverine’s habitat.
09. It has a creepy but strong built
The wolverine has poor eyesight, but its nocturnal nature solves the problem. Also, its size contradicts its strength and its remarkable fearlessness. Typically, a wolverine weighs less than 35 pounds, but an exceptionally large male can grow to weigh more than 70 pounds or so. It can grow up to 42 inches long in length, the general length being 32 -34 inches. Despite of its small size wolverine is known to hunt for animals many times heavier than it sharing its territory. There was one reported story of a 30 pound wolverine trying to steal a kill from a 400 to 500 pound black bear and guess what, it succeeded.
08. It is cut out for the Arctic
Not every animal is capable of coping up with the subzero weather for most of the year in the Arctic. But our special friend can. In fact, it is pretty much comfortable to live in the Arctic. The wolverine has large, webbed paws that spread out on top of the snow, acting like snowshoes, yes free snowshoes. It also has a thick, frost-resistant coat that keeps it warm throughout the long winters in addition with a very high metabolism rate which helps it to stay active in the snow and hence does not need to hibernate unlike bears.
Also, it is completely comfortable in eating frozen animal carcasses of large mammals like Caribou and Elk, which it can smell even when buried 20 feet beneath the snow, allowing it to find the leftovers of animals killed in avalanches. It has a special molar at the back of its mouth which enables it to tear the frozen meat off bones. For that matter, it does not even leave the teeth and bones of its prey all thanks to its razor sharp teeth and powerful jawbones.
07. The non-adamantium claws
What if it cannot retract its claws like the character? The wolverine still gets a point here. The claws are very helpful when it comes to tear off the hard meat from the prey’s body, to dig out the deep snow to search its prey and to climb sheer cliffs, icefalls and snowy peaks in the withering cold. When dwelling in forests it sleeps, hunts and gives birth on the ground. However, it can climb trees just like some bears. It can do this because of its long, sharp hook-like claws which can be called natural crampons. Get the cat connection?
06. It is a big-time thief
The wolverine is also a great scavenger that not only feeds on any dead animal it may encounter, but also steals from its competitors like wolves and bears, sometimes right after the animal is killed. In the act the wolverine has been seen to stand out against the wolves and stray them away from its now claimed prey.
Sometimes, the wolverine consumes the food it had stolen immediately, especially if it is hungry, but other times the wolverine stashes its stolen goods under the snow in the thick layers of snow acting as a refrigerator for which it does not even get an electricity bill! Clever smartclaws! You would be wrong if you thought it only steals food. It has its own collection mania, to steal blankets, hunting lodges, knives , carrying off guns, clothes, cooking utensils, tools and other items it actually has no use for. Well, waiting for the rise of the planet of the wolverines now.
05. It literally stinks
There is reason why it is called skunk bear or stink bear. The wolverine secretes a foul-smelling yellow liquid from its anal odor glands. Normally, this liquid is used by male wolverines to mark their territories, warning other males to stay away from that territory and letting the females know if they are available to mate. However, male wolverines also release this pungent odor in defense, just like the skunk. Thank god no complains as such from the MCU character.
04. Polygamous in nature
As you know by now that the male uses its scent to mark its territories, but it shares them with several females and is believed to be bigamous. The female dens in the snow to give birth to two or three young ones each late winter or the next early spring. The toddlers are called Kit and are snow white when born. They live with their mother until they reach their own reproductive age of about two years old.
The male wolverine reaches its sexual maturity at around 2 years of age, the female at around 15 months. Once the male is ready to mate, he searches not just for one mate, but two or three, and he will mate with them for the rest of his life. An average wolverine has a life expectancy of about 4-6 years but some also reach up to 13 years.
The mating season occurs in the summer – from May to August. In spite of this, the female wolverine has a special ability — it can delay its pregnancy until winter so that she can give birth in dens made of snow. These dens go as deep as 15 feet under the snow, which protects the kits from predators out in the snow. The female wolverine gives birth to just one or two kit every other year, but sometimes to three if it can find more food. The conception period lasts 30 to 50 days.
03. It is no lesser than the superhero
Wolverines, specially the males are believed to lead solitary lives and so blamed to be bad fathers but this theory has been disapproved. Researches show that male wolverines pay visit to the kits when they are born, also taking care of them when the mother goes out to hunt. Once the kits can hunt (at around 6-7 months old), they sometimes travel with their father, but prefer to stay with their mother until they become adults. Mi’kmaq ki’kwaju and the Innu kuekuatsheu are some words given to the wolverine by the native Algonquin people of North America. The word carcajou is a French-Canadian adaptation of these tales. The Innu tell a story similar to that of Noah’s Ark where wolverine plays the lead.
In many other Native American Indian stories, the wolverine is sometimes depicted as a candid and naughty trickster, sometimes as a witty entertainer and sometimes as a good luck charm.
02. Very difficult to study
The wolverines are extremely difficult to study in the wild, which is why so little has been known about them. Scientists are only just commencing to put together a precise picture of this marvelous creature by combining a number of research techniques such as radio-tracking, remote camera surveys, live traps, and DNA traps.
A wolverine named M56 was the first one to be observed in Colorado in the year 1919. It was captured near the Grand Teton National Park. Scientists tracked it using radio equipment and were overwhelmed by its journey. It traveled 550 solitary miles during the months of April and May, walking all along over highways, mountain ranges, and even across state lines. Nonetheless, each wolverine has a unique coloration pattern on its face, neck, and chest that allow researchers to identify each one of them.
But the current wolverine population remains unknown. You ask why? Well, first, wolverines have a wide home range, spanning almost more than 240 square miles (622 square kilometers), larger than Chicago! However, estimates put the population at 15,000 to as many as 30,000.
Second, wolverines are very secretive and difficult to observe. Just as difficult it was for Professor Charles to find Logan. Now I know why.
01. It is endangered. Or is it?
Canada and Russia have the most of the wolverine population. It is primarily found in the Northern Boreal forest and in the tundra region of the Northern Hemisphere, North Canada and throughout Western Russia and Siberia. But lately, there has been a considerable decrease in its population due to extensive trapping, ranging and habitat disintegration. The IUCN has labeled the wolverine as a species of Least Concern. The population is decreasing, in general, the European wolverine is labeled Vulnerable, in the US, it is labeled as a sensitive species. Also, the US Fish and Wildlife Service have recently suggested that the wolverine should be considered an endangered species and protected as such. The most serious threat the wolverines face today is the loss of their habitat. They require large ranges which if not available and due to global warming, snow layers are decreasing and females are unable to dig burrows and give birth to kits.
Now, as much as Hugh Jackman is rumored to leave as the character from the Cinematic Universe, believe it or not, the animal is also likely to disappear from our sight. Though they are not considered exactly as endangered species, they certainly are in the vulnerable category and there numbers are decreasing day by day due to our activities triggering Global Warming. So, agreeing with what Leonardo DiCaprio said at this year’s Oscars, global warming is very real and let’s not take this planet for granted and save our ferocious animal friend.