Skip booklet index and go to page content

COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the wolverine Gulo gulo in Canada

Special Significance of the Species

Wolverines are perhaps the most sensitive indicators of ecological integrity (Gunn, pers. com., 2002), due to biological characteristics and their dependence on large, connected and intact ecosystems. This is similar to the role typically assigned to the grizzly bear and other large carnivores. Wolverines are vulnerable on many fronts, including habitat fragmentation, overharvest, disturbance and the decline of ungulates.

Wolverines are viewed as one of several species of carnivores that should be used in multi-species conservation planning in the Rocky Mountain region (Carroll et al. 2001). Combinations of focal species are more effective umbrellas that any one species alone.

Wolverines evoke many different emotions from those who interact with them. Aboriginal peoples believe that wolverines have great powers to be either spiritual guides or relentless enemies (Moore and Wheelock 1990). This stems from their belief that long ago animals talked and lived like humans. Wolverines may destroy traps, fur and belongings, yet paradoxically they also have great powers of healing and transformation.

Wolverines are still a much sought after and economically valuable furbearer, and are trapped or hunted over much of their remaining range. The fur is frequently used for trim fur due to its durability and “frost free” characteristics. Wolverines have been given derogatory names such as “devil bear”, because of their propensity to rob food caches and cabins and then spoil the remains with its foul scent. They frequently rob traps of their catch, and trap-wise wolverines can be difficult to catch. Most trappers exhibit a great deal of respect for the animal. They are rarely seen, especially in forested areas. Attributes such as ferocity and cunningness have led to a mythology and folklore (Holbrow 1976).

Wolverines rarely prey on domestic animals in North America and so are not direct targets of predator control. Wolverines are a livestock predator in Scandinavia, where they prey on reindeer and domestic sheep (Ovis aries) (Landa et al. 1997).