Wolverines are one of the fiercest small to mid-size predators in the United States. Their reputation as such has been strong for centuries. The University of Michigan named its football team Wolverines and we can’t forget the Marvel character.
But in the news are reports that a baker’s dozen of the beasts, top weight about 50 pounds, have been seen chasing grizzly bears. The weight disparity is amazing as a male grizzly can weigh 600 pounds. The incident occurred in the Grand Teton range of the Rocky Mountains.
The story comes from Field and Stream magazine. The magazine quoted Doug MacCartney, a local naturalist guide. He and two friends were climbing in the area on August 2nd.. MacCartney said the trio saw a sow grizzly and her two cubs and watched the bears from a distance. They watched in amazement as many as 13 (MacCartney counted 12) wolverines gave chase to the bears. The bears retreated, climbing the rugged terrain at high speed. The wolverines kept pursuing for some distance.
Yellowstone Insight, an ecotourism agency, posted the story on its Facebook page October 2nd. Insight talked to a pair of wolverine experts about the sighting:
“Yellowstone Insight reached out to retired wolverine researcher Jeff Copeland, who currently serves on the board of The Wolverine Foundation to analyze the sighting. Copeland theorized that the large numbers of wolverines might have been congregating at higher elevations to feed on army cutworm moths…. Another local expert, James Halfpenny, said that there might have been a carcass nearby that was attracting the predators. Either way, a sighting of 12 to 13 wolverines in one place is exceptional, especially in the lower 48.”
The foundation exists to cut through some of the extravagant myths surrounding the creatures and bring understanding to a largely unknown predator. According to its website:
“Wildlife management and research are often driven by economics. Species receive attention when populations are reduced near the point of extinction, or if their numbers are adequate for exploitation. While wolverine populations appear able to support limited harvest, the status of the wolverine throughout its range is largely unknown. It is trapped and hunted for sport, and for its fur, throughout western Canada, in the U.S. states of Alaska and Montana, and is controlled as a predator of domestic livestock in Scandinavia. The level of human exploitation and habitat encroachment is not consistent with our limited understanding of wolverine population status, distribution, and life history requirements.”.
Dr. James Halfpenny is a naturalist and wildlife tracker who teaches animal tracking techniques.