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The Robinson Library >> Family Mustelidae

Gulo gulo


The wolverine has long, dense fur that is generally blackish brown in color, with two pale stripes down the back. It is 3 to 4 feet long, and weighs up to 70 pounds; males are slightly larger than females. Large claws and pads on the feet allow them to move over deep snow with great ease and speed.


Distribution and Habitat

Wolverines range across the Arctic mainland of northern Europe and Siberia through Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. They live in boreal forests, mountains, open plains, and brushlands.


Sexes come together for mating between May and August, but pairs only stay together long enough to mate. Individuals of each sex will usually have several partners during the breeding season, and it is not unusual for each individual kit within a litter to have a different father. Implantation of the embryo may be delayed for up to six months, after which gestation takes about 35 days. The dam (female) usually digs a den into the snow in which to give birth. One to six kits are born per litter. They will be vigorously defended by the mother until old enough to hunt their own, usually by autumn.


A wolverine is quite capable of bringing down prey up to five times larger than itself, and will go after just about anything from rodents to full-sized deer. Most smaller prey can be chased down and caught, but larger prey is usually taken down from ambush. Extremely strong and aggressive for their size, wolverines are also known to drive larger carnivores away from their kills and help themselves to a free meal.

Other Information

Wolverines are solitary and highly territorial animals. The home range, which may cover an area of up to 200 square miles, is marked with a very powerful scent, and is vigorously defended against same-sex intruders.

Although primarily terrestrial, wolverines can climb trees with great speed and are excellent swimmers.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Carnivora
family Mustelidae
subfamily Mustelinae
genus & species Gulo gulo


Animal Diversity Web

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The Robinson Library >> Family Mustelidae

This page was last updated on August 31, 2018.