The Wolverine is a powerful animal and is the largest member of the weasel family (Mustelidae). It resembles a small bear with a bushy tail, short legs, and large paws with semi-retractable claws. Wolverines are about the same size as a medium-sized dog when fully grown, ranging from 65 to 87 centimetres in length. It has dark brown fur with pale golden-brown stripes running along the sides of the body. The Wolverine has a large head with a dark brown face, sometimes with a light silvery facial mask, and has ears that are short and rounded. Wolverines also have unique markings on their chest which have been used to identify individuals.
Wolverines mainly scavenge on moose and caribou, which is a favourite winter food. They also eat beavers, snowshoe hares, squirrels, voles, and sometimes berries. The Wolverine has very strong jaws that it uses to crush bones and frozen carcasses.
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Historically, Wolverines were found throughout most of Ontario. Today, they are primarily found in the northwest boreal forest and coastal tundra; however, recent studies show some re-colonization of their historical southern range.
Wolverines usually live alone and roam across large territories that vary from 500 to 1500 square kilometres or more. Females build dens under snow-covered boulders, fallen logs, and occasionally in snow drifts. Researchers are still learning about the ecology and habitat needs of the Wolverine in Ontario.
The exact number of Wolverines living in Ontario is unknown; however, best estimates suggest there may be several hundred wolverines in Ontario. The main threat to the Wolverine is habitat loss due to forest clearing, and habitat fragmentation often associated with mineral extraction, forestry, and road creation. Wolverines have low birth rates compared to other large carnivores and occur in low numbers across the landscape, which makes them less able to recover from increased mortality due to incidental trapping or road kills.
The Wolverine is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. This species also receives protection under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
What You Can Do to Help the Wolverine
- The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Wolverine. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
- Appreciate Wolverines and don’t harm them. Wolverines are shy and normally avoid humans. As with all wildlife, be respectful and keep a safe distance.
- Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
- Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
- The Wolverine Foundation Inc. and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada have both worked in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario to undertake cooperative research on the Wolverine, including the Ontario Wolverine Project (2003-2005). For more information, visit:www.wolverinefoundation.org.
Did you know?
Wolverines mark their territory with urine and a musty-smelling scent from glands at the base of the tail, which led to its nickname “skunk-bear”. This scent marker tells other animals, “This area is occupied!”
Did you know?
In the past, Wolverine fur was renowned for its frost resistant qualities and was favoured as trim for parka hoods.
Did you know?
First Nations mythology describes the Wolverine as a trickster and a link to the spirit world. The Wolverine appears in folktales as a clever and ferocious beast with extraordinary strength.