Here is the debut of a weekly feature named ‘The Hunter’s High Road.’ Each Tuesday check back to see an animal that represents the apex of predatory evolution. Carnivores come in a range of shapes and sizes, using a variety of tricks to catch their prey. Some are powerful, some are beautiful. All are deadly.
The predator on display this week is the Wolverine, one of the most tenacious and aggressive animals in the world. The Wolverine could be mistaken for a small bear but is in fact the largest of the weasel family. Sometimes referred to as the Glutton, these solitary hunters can be found in tundras and boreal forests across Europe, Asia and North America. Their diet requires them to travel up to 15 miles per day, tracking rodents and rabbits through sub zero temperatures.
What makes the Wolverine a remarkable predator is its relentlessness. It won’t hesitate to attack prey many times it size, such as caribou. When searching for carrion it is fearless in the face of other predators. Wolverines are known to take on wolf packs and bears in their desire for food. There has been a report of a Wolverine clinging onto a polar bear’s throat until the animal suffocated. When eating they can be seen as voracious, but this is thought to be an adaptation to food scarcity in winter.
Males mark their territory through scent and form life long bonds with up to three females. Mating season takes place in the summer with two to three kits born in winter or early spring. Kits grow rapidly, reaching adult size within their first year. Males visit their offspring until they are weaned at 10 weeks old. Interestingly, some young reconnect with their fathers at 6 months old and travel together.
Wolverines have been trapped and killed for their lustrous coats. Their territories come into conflict with human development and declaring them endangered species hasn’t been met with much success. The Wildlife Conservation Society have made attempts to track young Wolverines. They clocked one in Wyoming near Grand Teton National Park having travelled south for 500 miles. The animal has also been seen recently in Utah. As of February 2014 it was the first sighting in 30 years.
Their relentlessness is so legendary, Marvel Comics used the namesake for the X-Men’s Wolverine. With their powerful hides, reputation and never say die attitude, Wolverines are among nature’s most wondrous predators.