Tails From The Zoo

Wolverines – Zoo Knew December 20, 2009

Filed under: Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 10:30 am
Tags: ,

Chris Reid and I talked this morning on the Weekend Wakeup Show on CJOB 68 about wolverines. As I mentioned on air, I try to provide some extra information on this blog about our weekly animal so remember to visit the site each week to learn more. On a side note, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s wolverines are probably loving this mild winter weather. If you haven’t been to the zoo in a while, the Christmas break is a great time to do so.



We have 2.0 wolverines at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

  • “Huey” was born in the wild Yukon and arrived at APZ in July 2002.
  • “Grizz” was born in 1999 at Yukon game farm, where he lived for three years. He spent the next seven at the St. Felicien Zoo, moving to our facility in June 2009.
  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo’s first wolverine was name Vishinski and he arrived at the zoo in 1952. The zoo has continuously had wolverines since 1978.
  • Six offspring have been sent to zoos throughout North America over the years including Minnesota, Grand Rapids, Pennsylvania and St Felicien.
  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo’s wolverines are not part of a Species Survival Program at the moment. The IUCN currently lists them as a species of Least Concern in most of the areas that they are found.

General Information:

  • Wolverines do not hibernate but they do den.
  • The wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family.
  • The wolverine is known as Canada’s “Hyena” because of its powerful jaws and large teeth are able to demolish frozen carrion and bone.
  • It has poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell.
  • Wolverines have thick, dark, oily fur that is highly hydrophobic (“water repellent”), making it resistant to frost. This unfortunately makes them popular for hunting and trapping.
  • Wolverines have anal scent glands for marking territory and sexual signalling. From this potent smell they’ve been given the nickname “skunk bear“.
  • Wolverines communicate through vocalizations and scent marking.
  • Average lifespan of wolverines in the wild is 7 to 12 years.

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Wolverines are circumpolar.
  • Wolverines are sparsely distributed in Canada’s northern boreal forests, but are more plentiful on the tundra and at higher elevations in the Rockies.
  • They are native to the western United States (including Alaska), Canada, Russia, Finland, Estonia, Mongolia, China, Norway, and Sweden.

Natural Diet:

  • They are opportunistic scavengers feeding on carrion (various deer species, seal) whenever possible.
  • They will also hunt smaller prey (rodents, rabbits, ptarmigan)

Zoo Diet:

  • Raw meat, chickens, rabbit and rodents


  • Wolverines are stocky and muscular, with short legs, a broad rounded head, small eyes and short rounded ears.
  • It has broad five-toed paws and a plantigrade posture that help through deep snow. It resembles a small bear mixed with a ferret.

Body length: 65 – 87 cm (25 – 34 inches)

Tail length: ~25 cm (~10 inches)

Weight: 10–25 kg (22 – 55 lb).

  • Large males can weigh over 31 kg (70 lb)
  • Males are around 30 percent larger than the females. It is the largest of terrestrial mustelids.


Arkive, The Wolverine Foundation, IUCN, National Geographic and others

Compiled by Scott Gray, Jenna Harrison and Jesse Kindzierski; December 19, 2009


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