The wolverine (/ˈwʊlvəriːn/) (also spelled wolverene), Gulo gulo (Gulo is Latin for “glutton“), also referred to as the glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae. It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids. A solitary animal,it has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times larger than itself.
The wolverine is found primarily in remote reaches of the Northern boreal forests and subarctic and alpine tundra of the Northern Hemisphere, with the greatest numbers in northern Canada, the US state of Alaska, the mainland Nordic countries of Europe, and throughout western Russia and Siberia. Its population has steadily declined since the 19th century owing to trapping, range reduction and habitat fragmentation. The wolverine is now essentially absent from the southern end of its European range.
Anatomically, the wolverine is a stocky and muscular animal. With short legs, broad and rounded head, small eyes and short rounded ears, it more closely resembles a bear than it does other mustelids. Though its legs are short, its large, five-toed paws with crampon-like claws and plantigrade posture enable them to climb up and over steep cliffs, trees and snow-covered peaks with relative ease.
The adult wolverine is about the size of a medium dog, with a length usually ranging from 65–107 cm (26–42 in), a tail of 17–26 cm (6.7–10.2 in), and a weight of 5.5–25 kg (12–55 lb), though exceptionally large males can weigh up to 32 kg (71 lb). Another outsized specimen was reported to scale approximately 35 kg (77 lb). The males are as much as 30% larger than the females and can be twice the females’ weight. According to some sources, Eurasian wolverines are claimed to be larger and heavier than North American with average weights in excess of 20 kg (44 lb) but this may refer more specifically to areas such as Siberia, as data from European wolverines shows they are typically around the same size as their American counterparts. The average weight of female wolverines from a study in the Northwest territories of Canada was 10.1 kg (22 lb) and that of males 15.3 kg (34 lb). In a study from Alaska, the median weight of ten males was 16.7 kg (37 lb) while the average of two females was 9.6 kg (21 lb). In Ontario, the mean weight of males and females was 13.6 kg (30 lb) and 9.9 kg (22 lb). The average weights of wolverines were notably lower in a study from the Yukon territory, averaging 7.3 kg (16 lb) in females and 11.3 kg (25 lb) in males, perhaps because these animals from a “harvest population” had low fat deposits. In Finland, the average weight was claimed as 11 to 12.6 kg (24 to 28 lb). The average weight of male and female wolverines from Norway was listed as 14.6 kg (32 lb) and 10 kg (22 lb). Shoulder height is reported from 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 in). It is the largest of terrestrial mustelids; only the marine-dwelling sea otter, the giant otter of the Amazon basin and the semi-aquatic African clawless otter are larger, while the European badger may reach a similar body mass, especially in autumn.
Wolverines have thick, dark, oily fur which is highly hydrophobic, making it resistant to frost. This has led to its traditional popularity among hunters and trappers as a lining in jackets and parkas in Arctic conditions. A light-silvery facial mask is distinct in some individuals, and a pale buff stripe runs laterally from the shoulders along the side and crossing the rump just above a 25–35 cm (9.8–13.8 in) bushy tail. Some individuals display prominent white hair patches on their throats or chests.
Like many other mustelids, it has potent anal scent glands used for marking territory and sexual signaling. The pungent odor has given rise to the nicknames “skunk bear” and “nasty cat.” Wolverines, like other mustelids, possess a special upper molar in the back of the mouth that is rotated 90 degrees, towards the inside of the mouth. This special characteristic allows wolverines to tear off meat from prey or carrion that has been frozen solid.
(From Wikipedia, June 2018)