The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Ferret
Story Of The Chipmunk
Story Of The Cavy
Story Of The Marten
Story Of The Lemur
Story Of The Echidna
Story Of The Mink
Story Of The Wapi
Story Of The Wolverine
Story Of The Skunk
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Story Of The Wolverine
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
One of the great states of the Union, Michigan, is given the nickname of an animal which was once plentiful within its boundaries, but is now nearly extinct in the United States the wolverine, or, as it is called by naturalists, the glutton.
While it is a very different looking animal from the weasel, and much longer in size, naturalists classify it as a member of the weasel family. It inhabits the northern regions cf both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. It has the same number of teeth as the marten, but they are large and powerful and most nearly resemble the teeth of hyenas.
The whole animal is heavily and rather clumsily built, and walks with the greater part of the soles of the feet applied to the ground. The limbs are thick and rather short; the feet are provided with long, curved claws, and have their soles thickly haired. The back is much arched, and both the head and tail are carried low. The whole appearance of the animal is that of a bear cub, with a superadded tail. The head is broad and rounded, with a rather short and pointed muzzle, small and widely-separated eyes, and small rounded ears, projecting but little above the general level of the fur. The tail is comparatively short, thick, and bushy, with hairs varying from six to eight inches in length. The fur of the body and limbs is rather coarse, long and thick, and there is also a thick woolly under-fur. The general color is dusky or blackish brown, but there is a distinct band of chestnut, or some lighter tint, commencing behind the shoulders, then running along the flanks, and meeting its fellow at the root of the tail. The front and sides of the head are light grey, while upon the throat and chest there may be one or more light spots. The limbs and under-parts, together with most of the tail, are very dark. The claws are nearly white.
There is considerable individual variation in the size of the glutton, the length of the head and body in seven examples measured by me varying from twenty-six and one-half to thirty-six inches, and that of the tail, with the hairs at the end, from twelve and one-half to fifteen inches. About twenty-nine inches may, however, be set down as the length of the head and body in average-sized specimens.
In Europe the glutton appears to have been long regarded as a kind of fabulous creature, and it is remarkable that it is known by the same namevielfrass in almost all the continental countries. What may be the meanings of this name is uncertain, some writers considering that it is compounded of two Swedish words signifying rock-cat, while others refuse to admit its Scandinavian origin. By the French Canadians the animal is termed Carcajou, and by the English residents of British North America, Quickhatch, the latter, and probably also the former, being derived from some almost unpronounceable native name.
The glutton is a forest-haunting animal; and in America is to be found in all suitable districts to the north of the United States as far as the Arctic coast, traces of its presence having been observed on Melville Island, in about latitude 75°. Its southern limits on the eastern side of the continent may be set down as about latitude 42° or 43°, or, roughly speaking, that of Lake Erie, but on the western side it descends lower, having been definitely recorded from Salt Lake, while in the mountains it may extend as far as Arizona and New Mexico. The animal is, however,-now virtually exterminated throughout the United States.
In Europe the glutton is found at the present day in Norway, Sweden, Lapland, the north of Russia, namely, in the neighborhood of the White Sea, in the Government of Perm, and the whole of Siberia, and Kamschatka. In the time of Eichwald it was still to he found in Lithuania, but is now extinct there. Solitary specimens have, indeed, been killed in Saxony and Brunswick; but these must be regarded merely as stragglers, and not as indicating that the range of the species extended so far south within historic times.
At an earlier period of the earth's history the glutton ranged, however, to the British Isles, its fossilized remains having been discovered. Evidence of the former existence of the glutton on the continent has also been. obtained in the caves of the Dordogne in the south of France.
In habits the glutton is almost exclusively a night animal, there being but few instances of its having been seen abroad during the day, and in two of these cases the animal was seen to sit up and shade its eyes with its paws, as if suffering from the unaccustomed light. The glutton does not hibernate, and there is no marked difference in the color of the winter and summer coat. In spite of its clumsy-looking appearance the animal when disturbed can make off at a very rapid pace, and hunters who have occasion-ally seen a glutton in the shades of evening speak of the hopelessness of pursuing it. It likewise ascends rough-barked trees with facility, although it is said that its climbing powers are only exerted when it scents food. In the pursuit of prey the glutton will readily swim rivers. As a rule it is silent, although when attacked it will give vent to angry growls.
Gluttons are found either solitary or in pairs, but generally solitary. During the day they live concealed in holes in the ground, which are usually their breeding-places, and which are frequently the deserted lairs of bears. In North America the young are born in June or July, the number of individuals in a litter being, according to Coues, generally four or five, but it is stated that there are sometimes only a pair. The young remain with their mother till the following winter, when they have to shift for themselves. The Cree Indians state that the mother is exceedingly fierce when defending her offspring, and at such times will not hesitate to attack human beings.
In regard to food, the glutton will devour any animal that it can catch and overmaster, and that it is by no means averse to carrion. The activity of the animal is such that it can at times capture such nimble prey as hares and grouse, while disabled or weakly deer are always successfully attacked. The stories of its attacking healthy, full-grown reindeer are, however, improbable. Foxes, rabbits, marmots, etc., are dug out from their burrows and eaten.
The glutton is the particular foe of the beaver and frequently digs that animal out of his house of mud and sticks even in midwinter when the beaver's home is solidly frozen.