Physical Characteristics: 12 – 18 inches tall at shoulder, 24 – 48 inches long, and 15 – 35 lbs. Large, muscular, agile weasel with small head, bushy tail, short legs, and large paws with cinnamon-brown – nearly black fur. Pale white stripe runs down each side from shoulder to tail. Possesses one of most powerful jaws of any mammal on planet.
Diet: Incredibly powerful for size; have ability to take down deer, caribou, mountain goats, and occasionally moose. Generally prey on mice, ground squirrels, birds, beavers, and other rodents. Adept scavengers particularly during winter months.
Habitat: Large territory encompassing great variety of habitats. During winter inhabit lower elevations/valleys in pursuit of prey. In summer occupy ridges/mountains (pursuit of prey), including sub-alpine/alpine landscapes. Regardless of season, require large/remote protected areas in order to survive, with little/no human disturbance.
Range: Very small populations in Canadian/Northern Rockies; roams coniferous forests of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Even smaller populations in Northern Cascades of Washington/Oregon, and Central Rockies of Colorado. Sightings in Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon. Best available science indicates less than 300 in Lower 48; Clearwater Basin one of last/greatest strongholds.
Reproduction: Breeds from April – September with litter of 1 – 5 kits between late-February and mid-April. Born blind and deaf; kits nurse for 8 – 9 weeks before leaving den with mother to acquire hunting skills. Mother typically spends first winter with kit(s), before sexually maturing and dispersing following spring.
Threats: Trapping, road building, logging, and recreation (motorized and non-motorized) have negatively impacted past two centuries. Climate change is serious concern; species depends on snow pack for habitat, denning and raising young.
Miscellaneous: Known as “skunk bear” because produces smell that rivals skunk. Abundant stinky scent produced in anal glands and used to mark territory. Wolverines and skunks are part of Mustelidae family. Wolverines also referred as “Symbol of Wilderness”.
Learn about efforts to recover wolverines.
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