Title : A Look into the Devils Eyes
Author : Mark Allardyce
ISBN : 1-905361-00-9
In this work the author gives you the full low down on one of the most enigmatic creatures on the planet. He describes and shows you most of the things you’d ever want to know about this amazing creature, including never before seen photographs and access to live and on demand media footage.
Having graduated from the UK National Computing Centre, Mark worked in the computer laboratories at Salford University and British Nuclear Fuels for some years before setting up his first independent software development company.
Being a keen environmentalist, accomplished climber and sportsman he lectured at University College Salford on recreation and outdoor activity with a specific interest in the application of software systems. Subsequently many field trips to the Arctic were undertaken to study the effects of exercise in extreme conditions on staff and students. This research led him to establish a privately funded software research and development unit at Salford University Human Performance Laboratory. He subsequently launched the resultant pioneering interactive healthcare software and over the following years the system made significant inroads into the general healthcare and corporate market sectors, screening hundreds of thousands of people throughout the UK and Europe.
The business was sold to a fully listed London Stock Exchange company at the height of the dot com boom. He was retained as Chief Executive Officer with offices in Manchester, London, New York and Jerusalem.
Since retiring from the PLC he has established, launched and sold several other businesses. His current group of companies specialise in web-based interactive learning systems.
He has written several collections of poetry; children’s short stories; a musical, and various works about the wolverine.
Wolverine: Gulo gulo.
The earthly manifestation of the Devil. For his size the strongest of all mammals. Absolutely without fear. Courageous, tenacious, intelligent, powerful, cunning, thievish, daring, relentless and vicious. Cougars, lynx, bears and packs of wolves retreat before him. Killed a polar bear. Razor sharp claws, amazing sense of smell and unbelievably strong. Has supernatural powers. Can withstand freezing temperatures. A movie star is named after him. Makes a great pet.Read More
The wolverine is a fascinating, engaging, appealing, interesting and mysterious creature. The whole rationale for my work is to make this known to as many people as possible. I wish to endear this enigmatic animal to the world at large. In doing so, I wholly admit to being unashamedly commercial in outlook and confess to any sensationalism employed. I do so to capture the readers’ attention and hopefully make them want more. To counter this dramatic measure I have provided many references in order for future researchers to pick up where I sign off.
I first heard of the Wolverine back in 1982 and I’ve been hooked ever since. From that day to this I’ve made it an evangelical principle to convert everyone I’ve met along the way.
Five friends, myself included, young men in search of adventure set sail from England and travelled to the Arctic. Our destination was a little heard of area in Sweden’s Lapland by the name of Sarek National Park. Sarek, an area of outstanding natural beauty is still, some 23 years later, home to bear, lynx, wolves and, of course, wolverine. We entered the area around Easter time along with three young Dutchmen. We had struck up an instant rapport with them on the postbus which took us to the end of the line, a hydroelectric dam. We said our farewells and headed off, in different directions, into bad weather and uncertain adventures. We could not have known just how uncertain things would be. When we left Sarek a month or so later we, sadly, did so alone. The extreme conditions encountered had taken the lives of the three young Dutchmen and left me snow-blind. Adventure indeed.
Since that time, I have lost two of the original five, good friends. One a firefighter and the other died in a motorcycle TT race. They are both dearly missed.
I come from a working class inner city background, where it was deemed somewhat unconventional to harbour a passionate desire to study a relatively unheard of creature from the Arctic. There was little available information on the wolverine at that time (the internet was still a dream) apart from the sensationalism that hooked me.
It took me years of hard slog, many field trips, countless hours studying university library papers and the constant badgering of any and all manner of information sources before I got to see a live wolverine.
During this period I worked hard to establish my business interests in order to fuel my passion. When times got tough, and they were plentiful, my wolverine research was always there to help me refocus and re-evaluate what was truly important.
Fast forward to 2005, when I found out that the very first International Wolverine Symposium was to be held in the Sarek region. I couldn’t miss it for the world.
This document is written because of the people I met at the symposium. In recognition and in honour of the resounding spirit of enthusiasm and camaraderie I witnessed being displayed by eminent professionals and enthusiastic amateurs, such as myself, who had gathered together in the Arctic town of Jokkmokk.
I felt like a fly on the wall, present at the birth of a community spirit that I could only liken to old tales from the 1940s when Britain was experiencing the blitz and the famous British air raid shelter spirit came to the fore. I witnessed a great deal of good fun, humour, eating, drinking, singing, dancing, talking late into the night and, above all, an incredible generosity and the sharing of ideas, dreams and knowledge. The latter of which was something new to me as my background in the healthcare industry was dotted with professional in-fighting and one-upmanship. I only hope that this gathering of truly like-minded individuals lives up to the promise I witnessed in the eyes of so many of those attending that I spent time with.
Many individuals gave so much in terms of organisational skill, knowledge, time, and tremendous effort. This was matched only by the enthusiastic nature of the local community who seemed genuinely pleased to have 150 wolverine ‘nuts’, from all over the world, in town. Many of the presentations were full of life and enthusiasm and, at times, the auditorium was bursting with tremendous gusto and passion.
In what seemed like an instant the three days of midnight sun were over. Speakers, whose papers I’d been reading for years and who I now know on first name terms, were packing bags and getting ready to go home. I felt a great deal of emotion in the auditorium when the closing presentation was made by Jens Persson. There was a genuine sadness in the air as matters concluded.
I can confirm that the tremendous effort on the part of our friends from Lapland was genuinely worth the trouble. They have gained new friends, respect and won over fans from around the world. They will get what they gave, of that I’m sure.
I can only hope that that spirit lives on. I am proud to make my small contribution, spurred on and helped by everyone I met.
I became aware for the first time in over 20 years, that I was not alone in my quest for all things Gulo. In fact, my knowledge, although considerable was eclipsed and my passion, as keen as ever, was totally overwhelmed by some of the people I met.
Forever, or so it seemed, I believed that I was on my own in the UK. Everyone thought I was a bit potty and I was severely fed up with having to explain, time and again, what a wolverine was. Then, I met another Englishman at the Symposium. He too had suffered the same fate as I over the years but, he was younger, more handsome, more enthusiastic, more knowledgeable and a talented artist to boot, and for those qualities I will never forgive him – but, how nice to have gained a friend.
Among the many new things I learned, one matter in particular became strikingly more obvious as the symposium progressed. It was simply that none of the 150 individuals was an island anymore. They were now connected and bonded by this invisible society. This fact alone is a quantum leap, but coupled with the equally invisible, but infinitely powerful internet, will in my opinion, enable the society to grow in power and strength as time progresses.
Observing this new society I witnessed a whole subculture clearly emerge before my very eyes. I don’t believe I am reporting anything revolutionary taking place but, I absolutely believe that the wolverine is just about to be let out of the proverbial bag.
I came home with bundles of souvenirs, 2 T-shirts, pages and pages of furiously scribbled notes, some amazing invitations and loads of fabulous contact details. I immediately dusted off my old papers and research documents and decided to burn some more midnight oil to produce this web-book.
I hope to inspire a similar passion and create a desire for more knowledge. I also hope that I can point to some truly excellent references from the real professionals, who live the dream, providing the likes of me with years of stimulating data.
Therefore, I have made every effort to give you access to the kind of information that I would like to have seen in the early days. You will find video, photographs and quizzes to pit your wits against.
To the professionals I extend my true thanks. To anyone new to the wolverine I wish you fun and passion in what lies ahead.
Picture a weasel — and most of us can do that, for we have met that little demon of destruction, that small atom of insensate courage, that symbol of slaughter, sleeplessness, and tireless, incredible activity — picture that scrap of demoniac fury, multiply that mite some fifty times, and you have the likeness of a Wolverine.
Ernest Thompson Seton, 1909Read More
The wolverine is incredibly cunning and powerful, but is also extremely cautious.
His armoury of weapons include; razor sharp claws and anal glands that secrete a fetid smelling yellowish fluid making him known as the ‘Skunk-bear’. He is also known as the `Hyena of the North’ as his jaws have a pressure poundage strong enough to crack frozen bones to powder or snap large branches with ease (he can even bite a lump from the butt of a rifle). Imagine taking a solid, frozen joint of meat from the freezer and trying to cut it. His fearsome jaws and teeth are so powerful that such frozen meat would make a fine meal.
A wolverine can move a log so heavy that two men would be required to lift it. The only thing weak about him are his eyes, which he has a habit of shading with his paw, as a man does with his hand. This deficiency is offset, however, by a keen sense of smell. (White 1964)
A solitary nomad; a tireless traveller; and, in proportion to his size, the strongest of all mammals in the northern forests.
He is a unique combination of viciousness, courage and cunning. He is one of the most powerful, thievish, daring and efficient killing machines known to man. Cougars, lynx and grizzlies are known to relinquish a fresh carcass to him. Even a pack of wolves have given ground to a single wolverine. One specimen placed in a zoo promptly killed a polar bear. (Krott 1959, Sheldon 1930, White 1964).
Throughout history the wolverine has been regarded as a mysterious creature, and this stands today as little is known about this powerful mammal.
He is known not only for his ferocity and strength but also his intelligence. One of the many stories of the wolverine concerns its strategy for catching deer, or other larger prey.
He is said to climb into a tree carrying a quantity of moss in his mouth.
When a deer approached he would let the moss fall to the ground, hopefully enticing the prey to feed off it. If the animal did stop then he would drop onto its back, fix firmly between the antlers and tear its victim’s eyes out. Following this, either from pain or to rid itself of its tormentor, the deer would bang its head against a tree until it fell dead. (Setton 1909)
As unbelievable as this tale may be the wolverine is the source of many such stories. Native American Indians believe that:
the wolverine is the earthly abode of the Devil, for how otherwise can be explained his seemingly supernatural knowledge of man’s ways. (White 1964)
Such ‘evil being’ tales (lycanthropy) exist for many animals that appear to display human characteristics. Folklore says that creatures with the ability to change from human to wolf (in Europe) or bears, hyenas, leopards, tigers, etc. (in other parts of the world) can only be killed by a silver bullet.
Mastin (1979) gives two examples of such wolverine tales.
Reigning as the Evil Spirit of the North, he was the lost soul of a great hunter whose only joy was the pursuit of other hunters until they had been driven to the point of madness. Then, through some eerie phenomenon, the victims struck a bargain with their tormentor, and gained admission to his company of the damned.
Equally chilling is another in which:
the wolverine pursues the solitary hunter until overwhelmed with exhaustion and then the doomed mortal was devoured in a single meal with not a single shred of evidence left to explain their mysterious fate.
Kozhechkin (2005) described one of the wolverine’s preferred methods of hunting. While his prey was eating or at rest the wolverine would take small quiet steps and then hide before making a quick, final spurt to bite and issue deep bleeding wounds.
The wolverine holds no concept of fear. Once the melee begins, he will either win or die and not once ask or give any quarter.
White (1964) reports that when in battle the wolverine is a terror, absolutely without fear. As he charges, bent on killing, he grunts and growls as if there were truly a devil under his shaggy hide. Regardless of the odds, he never retreats in a fight with another animal. It is invariably win or die.
Despite his fearless and fearsome reputation the wolverine is extremely cautious, highly alert and always in a ‘ready to run’ state when around kill sites or in proximity to other predators or perceived danger.
The wolverine stands accused of being a clever and deft thief. Formidable huntsmen and Canadian trappers have on numerous occasions testified to finding their traps emptied of their bait and even the traps, laid specifically for the wolverine, have been cunningly sprung and left to mock.
They can climb down chimneys; tear apart shutter boards; chew through logs as thick as a mans thigh, and rip out window frames to satisfy their curious habit of stealing and hiding things for which they could have no possible use. They will remove and hide the entire contents of uninhabited hunting lodges; including guns, axes, knives, cooking utensils and blankets, and befouling whatever was left behind. So strong is this saga of invincibility that it was believed that only a silver bullet could kill this cunning beast. (Mastin 1979)
Among the wolverines armoury of weapons it has long, immensly strong, curved claws. These claws are currently causing a conflict of opinion. Bancci (1994) states that they are semi-retractile, whereas Kozhechkin (1990) clearly reports that they are non-retractile: “In contrast to the lynx, the wolverine`s claws are not retractable, hence, this predator has to exert some additional efforts to hold itself on its prey”. Both arguments have support but more latterly the non-retractile opinion seems stronger.
Found principally in the Arctic regions the wolverine has a continuous activity cycle of alternate 3 to 4 hour periods of activity and sleep. He does not hibernate and in his quest for food he appears both relentless and inexhaustible. With the added advantage of extra warmth and support from his hairy, large, wide-spreading feet he hunts hour after hour in bitter winds, drifting snow and sub-zero temperatures. (Krott 1959, Mastin 1979)
Kozhechkin (2005) reported that the wolverine took an abundance of young and pregnant ungulates (Reindeer, Moose, Maral Deer) in deep snow conditions where there was a thin crust of ice formed on the snow. The heavier ungulates would flounder, sink and become stranded in the snow, making them easy prey for the wolverine which, with its large, wide-spreading feet, would seemingly glide over the deep snow to make its kill.
Whether the prey be large or small, vicious or timid, the wolverine usually gets what he wants.
White (1964) detailed the following wolverine story.
Some years ago I was visiting the Hudson’s Bay Company’s factor at James Bay, in northern Ontario, when a distraught Cree trapper came into the post. The factor, a Scot, knew that something serious must have happened to the trapper, for this was the height of the trapping season and the Indian was a long way from his grounds. The Cree lived alone in a small log cabin about 60 miles from the post. He said that in the first few months of the season he had done exceptionally well, and had stored away in his snug cabin a nice catch of marten, ermine and fox pelts. Then a wolverine moved into his territory. After one tour of his ruined trap line, the Cree determined to kill the raider. Suspecting that the modern steel trap was much too simple for his wily enemy, he set out one morning with his dog, a large wolf-husky, to build a line of heavy deadfalls – the swift-death type of log trap used by generations of his forebears.
Several times he crossed fresh tracks of the wolverine. The intermittent growling of his dog told him the malevolent little beast was close, so he kept his rifle handy. While he was eating a brief lunch, the dog flushed the wolverine. Hearing the commotion, the Cree plunged into the thicket and discovered the two thrashing on the ground. The wolverine had the big husky by the throat. Unable to shoot for fear of killing his dog, the Cree used his gun as a club. The wolverine let go and vanished into the brush as the Indian vainly tried a snap shot. The dog died of a severed jugular vein.
More embittered than ever, the Cree worked hard building the heavy traps, but in late afternoon a blizzard came up, so he made camp for the night, hanging his snowshoes on a tree to keep them out of the reach of prowling animals. In the morning he discovered that the snowshoes had been cut down, the frames eaten through and the buckskin lacings methodically chopped into short lengths. Without snowshoes he could not wade through the deep drifts, and he had little food with him. So, after hiding his equipment, he floundered off in search of willow suitable for fashioning improvised snowshoes. He was gone less than an hour, but on his return found that his blanket was shredded and the small metal container carrying his matches had vanished. Worst of all, his precious rifle had been dragged away.
Forcing back panic, the Indian set about making a crude pair of circular snowshoes with the willow branches. It was a torturous job, for he had no tools and no fire to warm his freezing fingers, but, salvaging what he could of the old buckskin lacings to make a temporary webbing, he at last was able to set out at dusk for his cabin.
What he found at home was heartbreaking. The wolverine had methodically destroyed the Cree’s entire catch of pelts. He had eaten, carried off or otherwise hopelessly befouled all food not in cans. Everything destructible had been ruined.
The sympathetic old factor gave the Cree credit for a complete new outfit of food, blankets, snowshoes, traps and a gun. After the Indian had left to continue his battle with the wolverine, I remarked that never before had I heard such a fantastic yarn. The dour Scot took down from a shelf a small booklet prepared by the Hudson’s Bay Company for professional trappers. The passage on the wolverine ends with these significant words:
‘When the wolverine appears on his line, the trapper has but two alternatives; he must trap the wolverine or give up trapping.’.
Krott (1958) detailed the following wolverine story.
Paul had just crossed the moor, where the delightful River Rall is no more than a little stream, when he suddenly stopped and sniffed again. The sweetish, attractive carrion smell was still there, but now there was something else as well. Another sweetish smell, but far from agreeable. Paul growled, the hairs along his spine stiffened, and his bushy tail described angry circles. With a few bounds he went up a slope, over debris and through a clump of birches along the ridge. It began to rain, which Paul didn’t normally care for at all, but he was now sufficiently interested to ignore the drizzle. He plunged into a thick spruce wood and came to a clearing. There lay a dead elk calf on which a big bear was happily feeding. That bear had earned his meal, for in his efforts to kill it he had been kicked black and blue by the calf’s mother before she gave up the struggle. It was something of a Pyrrhic victory; for the bear was now so stiff and sore he could hardly move.
Paul took in the scene at a glance and circled cautiously. So far the bear had noticed nothing. Paul went in closer. The bear became aware of his presence and rose on his hind legs, though with some difficulty, for the slightest move was painful. Paul came still closer, baring his fangs and growling savagely. The yellow strip across his forehead turned his face into an ugly mask. The bear growled no less savagely, but withdrew a few paces; as Paul came closer he delivered a heavy blow with his great paw. Paul sprang swiftly to one side and before the bear could recover had leapt swiftly at his most sensitive spot, the muzzle, and buried his sharp claws in the bear’s underlip while his teeth tore a great gobbet out of the bear’s snout.
With a howl of pain and anger the bear staggered back. Paul was in safety up the nearest tree in an instant. Painfully the big bear lumbered away. For a moment he paused and turned back, but Paul sprang down from the tree, snarling, teeth still bared and his tail swirling. At the fearsome sight the bear had had enough, and he turned again and made off, abandoning his rightful booty.
Goodwin (1963) reports that; in spite of the wolverine’s wild and ferocious nature, if taken when young they make docile pets and become quite fond of their masters.
Grzimeks (1972) reported that two wolverines at Bremerhaven Zoo, Germany were found to be extremely agitated by a nearby firework display. The Director reported that he entered their cage and calmed them by speaking softly and stroking them.
They were so frantic in their cage that I thought they might fatally injure themselves. I went inside and spoke quietly to them, and just at that time both animals came to me and laid down. They pressed close to the ground, extended their heads slightly, perked up their ears, and extended all four legs. I laid my hand on each one’s head and could feel them trembling.
The same Director, during floods in 1962, entered the enclosure because the wolverines were in danger of drowning. He spoke softly to the animals, picking them up in his arms, and he succeeded in preventing a potential catastrophe. It has been found in other zoos as well that hand-raised wolverines remain tame as adults and are unusually dependent on man, more so than almost any other carnivore.
The wolverine is descended from Plesiogulo and is believed to have evolved in the Old World and migrated from Asia across the Bering Straits to North America during the mid-Pleistocene (Irving 1972, Kurten 1968, Kurten and Anderson 1980).
He belongs to the North-Siberian faunal type; he is classified as an Arctic Siberian fauna-element, which suggests that the core of his range consists of the northern taiga and adjacent tundra and alpine areas (Pulliainen 1982 and 1988).
Throughout history many stories and fairy tales have been told about carnivores such as bears and wolves but none, other than old American Indian myths (Moore and Wheelock 1990), exist about the wolverine. Krott (1959) reported that there exists no known example of a religious wolverine cult.
It was reported in the late 1500s by Bishop Peder Clausson Friis in his book ‘Norriges Naturhistorie’ (Natural History of Norway) that if a bear gave birth to four cubs, the fourth would become a ‘jerff’ (wolverine). This old misconception was still alive at least as late as 1777 (Johnsen 1957).
Indeed, Professor Jon Swensen entitled his closing keynote presentation at the 1st International Symposium on Wolverine Management and Research, Jokkmokk 2005, ‘The Fourth Bear Cub’.
Kvam, Overskaug and Sorensen (1988) state that prehistoric man may have been afraid of depicting wolverines because they were regarded as evil and thought to posses supernatural powers. Many prehistoric carvings and drawings of other carnivores existed. However, only four wolverine carvings in bone from caves in Southern France have been found dating back to more than 10,000 BC.
American Indians believe the wolverine to be the earthly abode of the Devil. How else could one explain his seemingly supernatural knowledge of man’s ways.
Similar thoughts can be found among Inuit (Eskimos), Mongols and other natives of the northern hemisphere. Some Scandinavian Lapps even avoid talking about the wolverine, which they regard as an impure animal, but are fond of telling wolf and bear tales (Krott 1959). It is due to a fear that misfortune may befall their tribe that some Canadian Indians still avoid killing the wolverine.
GENUS & SPECIES: Gulo gulo Read More
16th Century Wolvering (from wolf).
16th Century Wolvering (from wolf + -ing).
“Furres of woolveringes for peddlers caps”
Wolver = wolf like.
Other names associated with the wolverine:
There is a school of thought that recognises two separate subspecies of wolverine:
The Old World, Gulo gulo gulo (Linnaeus 1758) and the New World, Gulo gulo luscus (Linnaeus 1758) (Hall and Kelson 1959)
With some merit various subspecies have been named. However, over the centuries matters appear to have gotten somewhat complicated:
(Novikov 1995 and Pasitschniak-Arts 1995)
Amidst some debate, but in a genuine desire to restore order and put aside confusion, taxonomists have reverted to the original scientific nomenclature of the wolverine; Gulo gulo (Linnaeus 1758).
When Linnaeus named the wolverine Gulo he was referring to the word ‘glutton’, which means huge eater, thus reflecting popular opinion that the wolverine is a tremendous eater.
Kvam, Overskaug and Sorensen (1988) report that the German name “Vielfrass” also reflects the wolverine’s reputation for eating voraciously.
This name, however, is also thought to be the same as the ancient Norwegian “Fellfross” which means mountain cat or mountain bear. ‘Fress’ which means male cat in Old Norse, was used by the Icelandic writer Snorri Sturluson (1179 to 1241) for the Bear (Heggstad 1963).
The wolverine is a creature of the far North. He is found principally in the forests of the Arctic regions.
He is a member of the Holarctic fauna occurring in northern Europe, Asia, and northern America (Liskop, Sadlier and Saunders 1974).Read More
Kvam, Overskaug and Sorensen (1988) report that the wolverine has a circumpolar distribution closely corresponding with the boreal zone of the northern hemisphere.
During prehistoric times the wolverine ranged as far south as Great Britain (Sutcliffe et al 1985) and southern France / northern Italy, the Pyrenees (Clott 1983).
Mostly the wolverine’s distribution has been halted by man. In fact, exterminated from the Baltic Sea and Poland (Krott 1959) and driven out of southern Canada and most of the northern USA. Michigan is still known as the Wolverine State.
He is presently spreading in the Tundra of both Eurasia and parts of the northern states of America (Chapman and Feldhamer 1982), he has even been found in Greenland. (Grzimeks 1972)
Kovach (1980) states that new areas of the Californian Sierra Nevada are noting an increase in the number of wolverines but does point out that this could just be a tardy recognition of this nomadic beast’s actual distribution.
During a series of presentations at the First International Symposium on Wolverine Research and Management in Jokkmokk 2005, various speakers reported on the state of wolverine abundance in their respective countries.
Larsson (2005) reported that from 1900 to 1968 there was a massive decline in the wolverine population. Full protection commenced in 1969 whereon the wolverine is now reproducing well in areas of Sweden. There were approximately 70 reproductions in 2004 with a total number of adults of around 380.
Van Dijk (2005) stated that the wolverine was doing well in most areas of Norway with a total population of 264 reported for 2004.
Kojola (2005) reported that the approximate number of wolverines in Finland was 130, he also stated that they had successfully trans-located wolverines.
Novikov (2005) stated that there are currently approximately 20,000 to 25,000 wolverines in Russia.
Zhang (2005) would not be drawn on actual numbers but did report that the state of the wolverine population in China was in decline due to loss of habitat, food decline and poaching.
Slough (2005) reported that the western and central Canadian wolverine population was numbered at approximately 20,000
Schmelzer (2005) stated that in eastern Canada, Labrador in particular, there were no wolverines. However, there was a great expectation and hope that they may well be successfully re-introduced (trans-locate wild caught wolverines) to repopulate certain areas.
Yates (2005) reported that the once eradicated wolverine population of Glacier National Park in Montana is back.
It is widely and somewhat confusingly reported that the wolverine’s favoured habitats are a mixture of deep marshy areas, forested hills, large forests, the taiga and tundra, wet areas, mountains and open moorland.
As amazingly widespread as the above may seem, Whitman, Ballard and Gardner (1986) report that wolverines cover terrain at elevations ranging from 260 to 2200 metres and that the low elevations were dominated by spruce forests with a shrub and deciduous transition zone blending to tundra and shrub birch habitat at higher elevations.
It appears that no specific habitat type was preferred in summer or winter, rather that some were avoided. In summer (April to October) forests were avoided. In winter (November to March) tundra types were avoided (Neu et al 1974).
Copeland (2005) reported that the favoured denning sites were approximately 200 metres above or below the tree line.
Hornocker and Hash (1981) verify that during the hot weather of summer, alpine fir types at higher, cooler elevations were favoured. They go on to point out that cover provided by mature or intermediate timber is important in habitat selection and that wolverines appear reluctant to cross openings and clear cuts.
One of the reasons wolverines may favour timbered areas around cliffs and slides, and swamps and basins was that of food, either as carrion or prey (Hornocker and Hash 1981).
I cannot state how strikingly simple and how far-reaching were the findings of Aubrey and McKelvey (2005) when they reported that a major factor in habitat selection was persistent snow cover during the late spring denning period.
The wolverine does not have a permanent sleeping site. It rather rests in hollows; snow filled depressions; tree stumps; rock holes, or digs snow holes. When a breeding den is constructed it is not done so lightly.
Myrberget (1968) reports that these dens range from 3 to 5 metres, with multiple entrances; connecting tunnels; separate chambers for food and excrement, with the young lying on branches. It has been my observation that adults sometimes dig a snow depression, then line it with twigs and scrub before sleeping.
Persson (2005) found that most of the denning sites he observed were under big boulders and along cliff baselines.
Some astounding reports on the size of the wolverine’s territory and their extraordinary activity levels have been documented.
Individual wolverines regularly travel over the same routes (Dixon 1938) in a tireless loping marten-like gait time and again but they do extend their ranges.
Newby and McDougal (1964) suggested that the wider ranging males are the first to invade new territories whereas Hornocker and Hash (1981) state that both sexes move into new areas sometimes for as long as 30 days before returning to their home range. However, they do note that lactating females travel far less than normal during spring and summer.
Yates (2005) reports that the female’s home range, whilst rearing their young, is restricted to the natal (where birthing occurs) and maternal (where they rear the new born) denning sites.
Males have a home range that often overlaps the home ranges of several females (Persson 2005).
With such large ranges and frequent forays into new areas it would be difficult for wolverines to defend their territory. Krott (1959) and Ewer (1973) found that males were mutually intolerant of other males as were females to females, but a male would allow more than one female to enter his territory.
Koehler, Hornocker, Hash (1980) and Pullianen (1988) found that the wolverine scent-marks his territory to maintain his essentially solitary nature. This marking, known as ‘martelism’ (Pullianen 1981a, 1982a, 1984), is a way of indicating that the area is already being hunted and that other wolverines should avoid wasting time and energy by hunting the same area (Koehler, Hornocker, Hash 1980). Responding to scent marking in this way may be simple avoidance rather than a response to an antagonistic display of territorial defence (Kleiman 1966).
The wolverine’s territorial marking behaviour is known as spatio-temporal organisation. It can be disrupted by a kin relationship where the mother might shift her home territory to allow a daughter to take over part of her old territory (Persson 2005).
Scent marking may also be used to indicate social status and contains little repugnant odour. In a fear response the odour is more pronounced.
It is worth noting, that different animals living in a similar way; or place; or having the same diet, display, what is known as, ‘intra-guild mutuality’ (Gustavsen 2005). Which means that they may share the spoils of a carcass.
Andren (2005) reports that wolverines visit 50% of lynx kill-sites and observed that lynx generally retire some 200 metres or more after feeding, allowing the wolverine to rush, grab and feed from the same carcass.
As solitary as the wolverine may be, it was reported by Bee and Hall (1956) that of 20 observations, 17 were of solitary animals, 2 of pairs and 1 of three animals together.
Multiple sightings are not too unusual as they could be mating pairs or familiar groups travelling to and from various rendezvous sites (Yates 2005).
Wolverines are omnivores in the summer months and carnivores in the winter months. This may seem odd but, the following list of foods consumed by the wolverine is staggering.
Grinnell et al (1937), Hornocker and Hash (1981), Jackson (1961), Myhre and Myrberget (1968, 1969, 1975), Ognev (1935), Erkki Pulliainen (1980, 1988), Rausch and Pearson (1972), Whitman, Ballard and Gardner (1986) and Wilson (1982) report the following:
It has also been my personal observation that, even though the wolverine cannot digest fibre (Pulliainen 1988), they have a passion for gnawing and chewing wood (logs and tree stumps); they seem to savour some flavour therein. This may be substantiated by Myhre and Myrberget (1975); when examining the stomach contents of two wolverines they found a mass of wood splinters.
I would surmise that savouring the resin flavour and swallowing splinters may be a secondary effect to the procurement of bedding material and having a thoroughly enjoyable chew.
The above list is by no means exhaustive but should illustrate that the wolverine has the ability to consume whatever it happens across. In fact Haglund (1966) said that one often gets the impression that the wolverine is out trying to find something to eat rather than to prey for game. Pulliainen (1988) also said he is on the lookout for something to eat rather than something to hunt.
The wolverine has a general and opportunistic feeding pattern that applies to live game as well as carrion (Pulliainen 1988).
Even though the wolverine does take live game, which sometimes makes him a dire enemy of man, he is mostly a carrion eater. Burkholder (1962) observed a wolverine make a spectacular attack on a caribou. Hornocker and Hash (1981) believed wolverines utilised their keen sense of smell (they can locate carrion from 2 miles away) to locate hibernating marmots, then dig into their burrows and make the kill. Krott (1959) said the wolverine could kill smaller prey with a blow from the forepaw, but a characteristic head bite always follows.
Ewer (1973) reported that, when attacking larger animals, the wolverine would often leap onto the animal’s back and kill by biting the neck. Pulliainen (1980, 1988) reports that wolverines will kill reindeer in winter when the snow is firm enough to bear the wolverine’s weight but not the reindeer. He can kill as many as 10 in a night. This made him a real enemy of reindeer associations and private reindeer farmers.
Whilst reporting on various wolverine kill techniques, Kozhechkin (2005) stated that the objective appeared to be to hang on to the neck and bite.
“The morphological peculiarities of the wolverine make it an incredibly and unusually powerful predator”.
Due to his winter habitat, much of the food he happens across will be frozen solid. His powerful jaws are now of great use. Hornocker and Hash (1981) said that the wolverine is adapted for carrion feeding. Haglund (1966) reported that the wolverine’s jaws, teeth and skull structure allowed them to crush large bones and feed on frozen meat.
In the spring and summer months however, the food consumed is different. The wolverine finds more food available and takes on a more varied diet. Krott (1959) reported berries, eggs, insect larvae and insects. Hornocker and Hash (1981) found that in the summer they could not attract wolverines to freshly killed carcasses even when very close by, suggesting other sources of food were abundant. Another factor worthy of note was that, when animals at a higher elevation hibernated for the winter, the wolverine in response came to a lower elevation where food sources were more plentiful (Whitman, Ballard, Gardner 1986). The findings of Hornocker and Hash (1981) verify that the wolverine favours higher, cooler elevations in the spring and summer months.
I found that the liquid consumption of the wolverine in winter conditions was confined to taking a mouthful of snow, whereas in springtime they waded into marshy melt water areas and drank by lapping.
Ewer (1973) noted that when drinking, wolverines make treading movements with their forepaws. Krott (1959) interpreted this movement as a response to drinking in marshy areas where treading pushes down vegetation and causes water to puddle. Ewer (1973) believed that the movement may be derived from the infantile milk tread which stimulates milk flow from the mammary gland. Wilson (1982) suggested the movement is even made by captured animals however, I did not witness the treading movement during the period of my research with two captive animals.
My research agrees with that of Ognev (1935) and Krott (1959) who reported that the wolverine would bury caches of food in the snow and then scent-mark them to return later to consume their food. Hornocker and Hash (1981) explain that food caches could only be functional in areas where other scavenging species are rare and where permafrost exists.
Banfield (1974) observed that juveniles matured as yearlings and that females mate during their second summer. Rausch and Pearson (1972) state that most males mature at around 14 to 15 months. Read More
King (1996) reports that courtship by the male includes dragging the female around by the scruff of the neck.
Mating can occur several times, each session lasting several hours. It is this vigorous mating that induces the female to produce eggs.
Breeding takes place sometime between April and October, most likely in midsummer (Wright and Rausch 1955).
One of the most widely quoted works regarding gestation periods is that of Meher (1975), wherein is suggested a period of between 215 and 272 days gestation. This includes a period of delayed implantation.
Birthplace and time
Pulliainen (1968) described 31 dens found by hunters in Lapland. Most were on the fells, especially in ravines, although 6 were found in spruce and pine peat bogs. The dens were dug beneath the snow for distances of up to 40 metres.
Other reported den sites are caves and among boulders and tree roots.
Wherever home is situated it is kept scrupulously free from droppings and is usually close to water.
There is the natal den, where they give birth.
Number of kits, size and colour
They are sandy to white in colour up to their dark nose, dark eyes and feet. Average 84 grams in weight and are 121 millimetres in length (Meher 1975).
The infants are sightless for approximately 4 weeks and are nursed by their mother for about 2 months. As an aid to the digestive process – specifically elimination – she massages their stomachs and beneath their stubby little tails with her tongue after each feeding (Mastin 1979).
Peter Krott (1959) states the necessity of the stomach / rump massage in rearing healthy infants. He lost 2 kits as a direct result of not performing this action.
Growth and development
Persson (2005) reports that, even if the mother has kits the following year, dispersal is still around 12 months.
It is very difficult to establish age in wild wolverine. Woods (1944) states that the average captive age is five and a half years. However, Blomqvist (2001), reports a twenty year old male and an eighteen year old female. Read More
There appear to be no main predators to the wolverine, other than man. (Van Zyll de Jong 1975, Hornocker and Hash 1981) There are however reports of wolverines being killed by a variety of animals.
White (1964) reported that a beaver had overcome the efforts of a wolverine attack. During the fight, which ended up in deep water, the wolverine had drowned.
A more obscure death occurred after a wolverine had killed and eaten a porcupine. The quills of which were the cause of death. (Grinnell et al. 1937)
Burkholder (1961) gave a lengthy report of how a small female wolverine was killed by a pack of wolves over a carcass at an old kill site.
A trapper observed a wolverine, who had a paw caught in a steel trap, drag the trap onto a frozen lake during a fight with a wolf. By the time the trapper reached the scene the wolverine was dead. (Bowles 1977)
Wolverines are known to commit acts of infanticide. Per Wedholme (2005) observed that females may kill offspring of other females in neighbouring territories possibly due to competition for food sources. Bo Kristiansson in his DVD ‘Land of Wolverines’ shows in detail two juvenile wolverines that have been killed by another, probably male, wolverine.
Dr. T Bell, a pathologist at Washington State University, noted that infection of the uterus possibly caused by a retained foetus (which is not uncommon in mustelids) was a cause of death. (Hornocker and Hash 1981)
During periods of difficulty in obtaining food many wolverine die. A heavy reliance on trap bait may occur prior to starvation. (Hornocker and Hash 1981, Van Zyll de Jong 1975)
Inman (2005) reports that a major cause of concern is the advance in snowmobile technology. Newer machines have better fuel consumption and, therefore can travel longer distances, and they have the ability to climb to 3000 metres. The wolverine has no escape.
Fur and pelt prices
Wolverine fur is valued, as much for its beauty and rarity, as it is for its function. Frost forms on wolverine fur, just as it does on wolf or coyote fur, but it can be easily brushed off. (Quick 1952) Read More
Whether pelts are taken for function or beauty, they are certainly taken for a price. Liskop, Sadlier and Saunders (1981) report that trappers have a greatly increased incentive as pelt prices have risen spectacularly. Slough (2005) reports that a live wolverine can fetch as much as $2000 on the open market. Recent research found that a fur price ranged from $350 to $575.
Farming and compensation
Even though full compensation is paid to Finnish reindeer herders for losses caused by the wolverine, they are still very effectively hunted on snowmobiles. (Pulliainen 1988)
Baer (2005) reports that the Swedish Government compensates for the deaths of Reindeer at a cost of approximately $6.3m per year.
In pre 1969 Sweden, bounties were paid for wolverine hunting. Overnight the law was changed. It became illegal to hunt wolverine.
The Government introduced The Coherent Predator Policy in 2001. The new system compensates reindeer herders, not for kills, but for the presence of wolverine in the husbandry area. Each wolverine reproduction is worth 20,000 euros (Lofgren 2005).
However, in neighbouring Norway the Government compensates for killed domestic livestock. They spend approximately 14.9 million euros ($19.2 million) per year (Kjorstad 2005).
There would appear to be a conflict in management strategies, as one is paying for an increase in wolverine and their neighbour is paying for deaths of livestock.
As wolverines know no international boundaries, the more the Swedish wolverines reproduce, the greater the chance of cross-border migration and, as such, the greater the cost.
The wolverine is on the IUCN red list. It is listed as endangered in eastern Canada (Schmelzer 2005) and listed as of special concern in western Canada (Slough 2005). In Sweden the wolverine is currently classified as endangered and on the national red list (Larsson 2005). Norwegian wolverines are protected by the Bern Convention (Van Dijk 2005).
Wolverines have still been subjected to some persecution by reindeer farming where bounties have been paid to hunters for each wolverine destroyed. It has also been hunted for its pelt. Its reputation for having evil or supernatural powers has also not helped its plight within certain Inuit tribes. (Kvam, Overskaug, Sorensen 1988)
In British Columbia the wolverine is not endangered and, as such, has been harvested since 1919. The lowest number taken was 10 in 1962 to 63, with the highest being 634 in 1972 to 73. (Liskop, Sadlier, Saunders 1981)
Since 1982 the wolverine has been fully protected in Finland (Kojola 2005). However, licences are still granted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to kill them (Pulliainen 1988).
Kvam, Overskaug and Sorensen (1988) believe that in Norway the wolverine is not endangered but should be considered vulnerable. They suggest that its reputation of being connected with evil powers has resulted in fear and a lack of goodwill.
As illustrated in previous chapters the wolverine is in danger in many countries but abundant in others. In parts of Ontario (Ray 2005) only first national people (native Canadian Indians) are allowed to hunt or trap wolverines. In areas such as Alaska there is no bag limit (Golden 2005).
It would seem appropriate that a wider ranging policy, based on general principles and common sense, should be considered. It could deal with issues such as: neighbouring countries having different methods of compensation; controlling hunting and trapping via elevation (not hunting at a higher altitude) and / or shortening the hunting season to allow for protection during birthing periods.
If it is not international policy then, at the very least, there should be some form of education or dissemination of information that might influence appropriate change.
My twenty three years of wolverine research has rewarded me in countless ways.
It has been a real joy to witness the emergence of a network of wolverine management and research professionals.
It is my hope and belief that these professionals will continue with the significant advances made to date, encouraging common global goals and policy in wolverine research and management.
Any work that will help remove the clouds and shadows of mystery and spotlight the fascinating life of the wolverine will only further endear this wonderful creature to increasingly larger numbers of the general public.
I believe that if we can successfully increase awareness and interest then this, in turn, will feed the enthusiasm for more research and, hopefully, swell the number of future professional researchers.
Click to view all reference material for this book…
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Baer, L., 2005. Wolverines and reindeer herding – indigenous participation in the co-management of carnivores. Oral Abstract 1st International Symposium on Wolverine Research and Management, Jokkmokk
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Photographs and video footage
All photographs and video footage are the copyright of Mark Allardyce. All rights reserved.
Images on pages 110 and 111 courtesy of eBay.
Click to view a glossary for this book…
Alpine : Living or growing on mountains above the timberline.
Arctic : A region between the North Pole and the Northern timberlines of North America and Eurasia.
Arctic Siberian fauna-element : An animal from Siberia.
Holarctic fauna : Of, relating to, or being the zoogeographic region that includes the northern areas of the earth and is divided into Nearctic and Palearctic regions.
Nearctic : Of or designating the biogeographic region that includes the Arctic and Temperate areas of North America and Greenland.
Palearctic : Of or relating to the biogeographic region that includes Europe, the northwest coast of Africa, and Asia north of the Himalaya Mountains, especially with respect to distribution of animals.
Den : The shelter or retreat of a wild animal; a lair. A cave or hollow used as a refuge or hiding place.
Denning : The making of a den.
Erupt : To emerge violently from restraint or limits. To break through the gums in developing teeth.
Eurasia : The continents of Europe and Asia taken as a whole.
Hoar (up) : The forming of ice crystals making a white deposit.
Intra-guild mutuality : Different animals living in a similar way or place or having the same diet.
Kit : A young, often undersized fur-bearing animal.
Lapland : Extensive region of North Europe mainly within the Arctic circle. Consists of the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola peninsula of the extreme north west of Russia.
Laplander / Lapp : A member of a people of nomadic herding tradition inhabiting Lapland.
Linnaeus : Carl Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linne or Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), is often called the ‘Father of Taxonomy’. His system for naming, ranking and classifying organisms is still in wide use today (with many changes). His ideas on classification have influenced generations of biologists during and after his own lifetime.
Martelism : A marking method that indicates an area is already occupied.
Mid-Pleistocene : Of or belonging to the geologic time, rock series, or sedimentary deposits of the earlier of the two epochs of the Quaternary Period, characterized by the alternate appearance and recession of northern glaciation, the appearance and worldwide spread of hominids, and the extinction of numerous land mammals, such as mammoths, mastodons, and sabretoothed tigers. From two million to eleven thousand years ago; extensive glaciation of the northern hemisphere; the time of human evolution.
Morphological : The form and structure of an organism or one of its parts.
Nomenclature: The procedure of assigning names to the kinds and groups of organisms listed in a taxonomic classification.
North Siberian faunal type : An animal from Siberia.
Permafrost : Permanently frozen subsoil, occurring throughout the Polar Regions .
Plesiogulo : Also known as Pleisiogulo, an ancestor of the wolverine from the Miocene / Pliocene period.
Polar Regions : The various lands and waters surrounding the North Pole and the South Pole, known respectively as the North Polar Region and the South Polar Region.
Circumpolar : Located or found in one of the Polar Regions.
Retractile : That can be drawn back or in.
Scent-mark : An odorous pheromone or defensive substance secreted by an animal on objects in their territory.
Spatio-temporal organisation : The name given to the wolverine’s territorial marking behaviour which ensures solitary use of space over a period of time.
Taiga : Evergreen coniferous forest of northern Eurasia located just south of the tundra and dominated by firs and spruces.
Taxon (pl. Taxa) : Any taxonomic group or rank.
Taxonomy : The branch of biology concerned with the classification of organisms into groups based on similarities of structure, origin, etc. The science or practice of classification.
Taxonomist : A biologist who specialises in the classification of organisms into groups on the basis of their structure and origin and behaviour.
Temperate Zone : A zone of mild temperature neither tropical or polar. North Temperate Zone, between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancer.
Timberline : The elevation in a mountainous region above which trees do not grow.
Tundra : A treeless area between the icecap and the timber line of Arctic regions, having a permanently frozen subsoil and supporting low-growing vegetation such as lichens, mosses, and stunted shrubs.
Coherent Predator Policy : In 2001 the Swedish Parliament decided to ensure the long-term survival of Sweden’s large carnivores – brown bear, wolverine, golden eagle, lynx and wolf. A broad series of measures was taken to minimise conflicts between predators and man and to prevent damage. The programme includes predator surveys, grants to prevent and compensate for damage, controlled hunting, delegated decision making, research, enforcement of hunting legislation, dialogue and communication on predators
National red list (Sweden) : Red Lists are lists of threatened and rare species according to an international standard. The species are grouped according to a system of six categories reflecting the risk of extinction from Sweden. The Swedish lists are produced by the Swedish Species Information Centre valid for the country as a whole. SEPA is the national authority for environmental matters including biodiversity, and adopts the Red Lists into official documents.
For all the years of love, support and encouragement from my Mother, Father, Sister and Brother.
Rainy Day Projects, the most innovative Publisher on the planet. They have been a complete breath of fresh air.
Jeremy Sims, whose technical know-how and patience are legend.
Patrick Cassidy whose e-design skills know no boundary.
Tony Faro, for hours of painstaking editing, advice and guidance.
Jeff Cain for a practical and thorough review of all Gulo gulo reference material.
Jens Persson and Camilla Wikenros for the final inspiration to complete this work.
And finally, my wife and children who put up with my single-mindedness – you are the world to me.
And finally, finally – to all of those who said I wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t. xxx