They’re short, stocky, and bold, known to travel long distances and go head-to-head with predators that tower over them. Wolverines are a unique land-dwelling species with a keen sense of smell. They have the power to emit a strong stench when it’s time to claim their territory. At first glance, you may think you’re looking at a bear. However, these creatures are active year-round, never resting in one place for too long. Although they’re often compared to bears and they have long claws of their own, can wolverines climb trees? Let’s find out!
Species Profile: Wolverine
Wolverines have a stocky appearance reminiscent of small bears and are known for their fearless, clever personalities. They’re not afraid of battling it out with predators larger than them. Despite their comparisons to bears, they are actually a part of the weasel family. Not just any part of the family, but they are the biggest members!
They are known for being solitary creatures. Wolverines often traverse up to 15 miles per day in their daily quest for sustenance. They usually measure up to 41 inches long and their thick tails may be somewhere between five and 10 inches long (on top of their body’s length). On average, they weigh between 18 and 40 pounds with the males typically being heavier than the females, (sometimes weighing over 60 pounds!).
Where Do Wolverines Live?
Wolverines have a preference for wooded environments. They can be found in the colder regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Since they travel such long distances regularly, they need plenty of space to get around. Their home ranges may cover anywhere between 100 and 600 square miles. In the contiguous United States, wolverines usually remain in higher altitudes where there’s plenty of vegetation. However, they also make their way down into lower elevations as needed.
Females use deep snow to create dens where they birth their young. They usually require at least five feet of snow to create a shelter for their young — this way, she protects them both from the cold weather and from hungry predators. The males in the territory are considered polygamous, meaning they mate with more than one female within the same larger territory. Each female usually has one or two kits at the end of winter and into spring during the months of February through March.
How Many Kinds of Wolverines Are There?
There are two wolverine subspecies, and they include the American and Eurasian wolverines. Although each subspecies is located in different parts of the world, wolverines are very similar both in their appearances and in the ways they behave. Eurasian wolverines may grow larger than their American counterparts, but both are distinguished by their ferocious natures. They feed on many of the same animals and they both emit distinctively strong odors from their scent glands — they use the odor for either sexual signaling or as a way to mark their territories.
What Do Wolverines Eat?
Wolverines are omnivores, which means they opt for berries and plant matter as well as meaty foods like rabbits and rodents. They are flexible with their diets, adapting to the seasons and the locations they live in. During the summer, for instance, berries make up a big part of their diets. During months when their berry and plant food sources are scarce, they turn their attention to carrion. This is especially true during the winter season — wolverines turn into scavengers, feasting on the carcasses of various animals, including deer, elk, and caribou.
Are Wolverines Able to Climb Trees?
Wolverines have long, thick coats that are blackish and brownish. On the sides of their bodies, there is a lighter-toned stripe that travels from their neck down to the base of their tails. They have short, slightly bowed legs, and the soles of their feet are littered with hair. Their claws are long, sharp, and partially retractable. But do their hairy soles and sharp claws help them climb trees?
Yes, wolverines can climb trees! They’re quite adept at climbing and are often found enjoying downtime on the tops of evergreen trees in the forests they call home their home base. Climbing also gives them a vantage point, helping them spot their prey so they can easily pounce on it for an easy kill. If in a bind, a wolverine may also climb a tree to escape a predator.
Are Wolverines Endangered?
In the 1990s, trapping rendered wolverine populations nearly extinct. However, today they are classified as “least concern” in the U.S., despite their decreasing populations. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was asked to classify wolverines as a threatened species but to date, there have been no changes to the wolverine’s classification. In 2020, a judge ordered the organization to reconsider its previous designation and gave them 18 months to do so. As of 2022, wolverines have been reinstated as candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Denja1
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