Physical Characteristics: 12 – 18 inches tall at shoulder, 24 -48 inches long, and 15 – 35 lbs. This large, muscular weasel has a small head, a bushy tail, short legs, and large paws with a coat that is mostly dark cinnamon brown to nearly black in color. A pale white stripe runs down on each side from the shoulder to the tail. The wolverine possesses one of the most powerful jaws of any mammal on the planet.
Diet: Incredibly powerful for their size, wolverines have the ability to attack and take down deer, caribou, mountain goats, and occasionally a moose. They generally prey on mice, ground squirrels, birds, beavers, and other rodents. They are adept scavengers, particularly during winter months.
Habitat: Incredibly agile, the wolverine has a large territory encompassing a great variety of habitats. During winter months they drop to lower elevations and valleys, following their prey. In the summer they occupy ridges and mountains, including sub-alpine/alpine landscapes. Regardless of the season, wolverines require remote and large protected areas in order to survive, with little or no intrusion from humans.
Range: The wolverine is a symbol of wilderness and rugged landscapes. With small populations in the Canadian and Northern Rockies, the wolverine still roams coniferous forests of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, with the Clearwater Basin serving as one of their last and greatest strongholds in the lower 48. Even smaller populations occur in the Northern Cascades of Washington/Oregon, and the Central Rockies of Colorado.
Reproduction: Breeding season runs from April – September, with females giving birth to a litter of 1 – 5 kits between late-February and mid-April. Born blind and deaf, the kits nurse for 8 – 9 weeks before leaving the den with their mother to acquire hunting skills. The mother typically spends the first winter with the kits, before sexually maturing and dispersing in the spring.
Threats: Trapping, road building, logging, and motorized recreation (snowmobiling) have negatively impacted the wolverine the past two centuries. Climate change is a serious concern, as the species depends on snow pack for habitat, denning and raising their young.
Miscellaneous: Known as the skunk bear, the wolverine produces a smell that rivals a skunk. The abundant stinky scent is produced in the anal glands and is used to mark territory. Wolverines and skunks are part of the Mustelidae family.
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