“How to Identify a Wolverine | Blog | Nature | PBS

Wolverine (Gulo gulo): the largest member of the weasel family that lives on land

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The wolverine is the largest species of weasels that live on land

Wolverines weigh 20 to 66 pounds, measure 14 to 17 inches shoulder height, and measure 26 to 36 inches long, along with a 5- to 10-inch bushy tail

The wolverine is like a small bear

They have short ears and strong teeth

Equipped with the ends like a hook, the wolverine has something called natural crampons, which allow it to scale an ice fall or a force cliff without much difficulty

Wolverines are solitary and nocturnal hunters

They are carnivores, hunting deer, sheep, small bears, rodents, hares, and other small burrowing mammals

Much of its diet comes from scavenged meat from scavenging the carcasses of elk, caribou, and other animals

When it comes to hunting, they are known for their strength, fear, and truth

For example, a 30-pound wolverine reportedly attempted to steal a kill from a 400- to 500-pound black bear


Their habitat includes the arctic, subarctic, alpine and boreal zones

Wolverines are found in the cold, northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America

Although wolverines are solitary for most of the year, they have a short mating period

A female gives birth to a litter of one to five young in early spring, after a gestation period of 9 months

When female wolverines lift their loads in late February, they burrow as deep as 15 feet under the snow to protect their young from predators and the cold

The young are nursed for about a year or until the young reaches sexual maturity, at about 2 years of age

The male may return to his equipment periodically to feed them

The wolverine spends most of the year alone, apart from the mating period

It roams and hunts in its vast territory, which can range from 40 miles to over 370 miles, depending on its locations and available resources

They are known to have a very strong sense of smell, which they use to mark their territory and ensure that no rival wolverines invade their range

Wolverines were once thought to be completely reclusive and antisocial, coming together for the sole purpose of mating

However, new findings suggest that after babies are born, they stay with their mother for up to a full year and dad returns periodically to help raise the kits

Wolverines have an average life expectancy of 4 to 6 years, but some can reach up to 13 years


During the 19th century, wolverine populations were nearly extinct due to hunting and other human activities such as deforestation and human expansion

Because wolverines are highly territorial and highly sensitive to disturbance, the increasing demand for winter backcountry recreation combined with new and more powerful snow machine technologies suggests that wolverines’ range will continue to decline due to human activity appropriate

Another threat to wolverines is climate change

They use snow to build the groves where the kits are born and nurtured

As reproduction takes place in the spring, this requires the snow cover to last well into February and March

However, climate change is likely to bring earlier spring temperatures in some areas, creating another risk to the wolverine’s survival by further limiting its range

People hunt Wolverines for their attractive heavy fur, which has been used to line parks

Today, this practice is much less common and the animals are protected in many areas

Conservation Status:

Wolverines are classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List

Conservation Efforts:

Wolverines are difficult to study in the wild, which is why not much is known about them

Further research will help to better understand and protect the species

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