WCS Canada

Wolverine

Fast Facts

Scientific Name: Gulo gulo

  • Although breeding generally occurs in summer, wolverine females undergo "delayed implantation": the fertilized egg stops growing for 6 to 8 months before implantation and a 30-50 day gestation period. The kits are typically born February or March.
  • Adult wolverines are about the size of a medium dog, with males about 30% larger than females.
  • Humans cause most wolverine deaths, followed by starvation and predation.
 The wolverine is the largest member of the family Mustelidae, which includes martens and fishers. But despite being a relatively small mammal, a wolverine needs a home range than can be as large as or even larger than that of a grizzly bear, often covering 1,000 km2. Wolverines are powerfully-built carnivores that can kill prey many times their size. They are both predators and scavengers with sharp teeth and powerful jaws enabling them to gnaw through frozen meat and bones. With their thick, frost-resistant coat and large, snowshoe-like feet, wolverines are ideally adapted to live in the cold Arctic, subarctic, and mountainous environments. They are elusive, tenacious, and yet vulnerable to several threats, mostly related to human activities. 

Wolverine numbers declined substantially in the 19th and early 20th centuries due to trapping and poisoning for the fur trade. Today, largely confined to remote northern environments, wolverine populations are believed to be stable in most of their current Canadian range. Wolverine habitat within the southern part of the range, however, is becoming increasingly fragmented by industrial activity and associated road networks. This can lead to increased harvest and disturbance pressure, and a changing climate is expected to alter the availability of spring snow cover required for denning.

Activities

Tracking Wolverines in Ontario

WCS scientists in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were the first to use GPS technology to track wolverines through the snow to gather basic information about wolverine populations. WCS scientists were the first to radio-track these elusive carnivores in the vast lowland boreal forests in northern Ontario. Our aerial surveys in northern Ontario have shown an eastward range expansion toward James Bay and Québec.

Informing Wolverine Management

WCS shares information from this work with provincial and federal governments in Canada to improve wolverine management and recovery and protect habitats and wildlife corridors. WCS has also worked with the Ontario Fur Managers Federation on strategies to avoid incidental harvest of wolverine and to minimize damage by wolverines to traps. This has led most recently to the development of a brochure focusing on specific recommendations aimed at minimizing incidental wolverine harvest.

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Key Staff

Justina C. Ray
WCS Canada President & Senior Scientist
All Wolverine Staff >>

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Contact

WCS Canada
344 Bloor Street West, Suite 204 Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3A7
(416) 850-9038