Small, Shy But Very Fierce
Friday 6th July 2012

Say “wolverine” to most people and it will probably conjure up images of Hugh Jackman with retractable metal claws, but the real creature that inspired the character is far more impressive.

With a strong jaw, capable of cracking a moose femur, insulating hydrophobic fur, allowing them to lie on snow without even melting it, and a ferocious attitude, they are the perfect animal to battle for food against wolves, lynx and bears. Wolverines will often wait for other predators to make a kill and then force them off, even though they’ve been reported to bring down reindeer and even moose.

Sadly you won’t see one of these amazing animals at Taronga. We haven’t seen one since 1975. A man who has had several close encounters is Rob Dockerill. In the past Rob has survived multiple encounters with the wolverine, the animal, not Hugh Jackman, so he made a perfect candidate to send to the freezing territory of Kontiovarra, Finland to try and spot this exciting, but elusive animal.

Rob had to sit in a log and plywood hide for many hours battling freezing temperatures. Rob said, “With several layers of clothes, a sleeping bag, and a blanket it was still cold – but more than worth it.”

“We had been in the hide since 4pm, it was shortly before 7pm when Martin my guide whispered, “at the top of the hill,” and there was our first wolverine. Over the next two days we were to see two different animals on a total of eleven separate occasions.”

“To see these animals within 10 meters of you is just exceptional. It was worth the travel and cold.”

Next to the polar bear, the wolverine is the mammal most at risk from global warming.

The largest member of the mustelid (weasel) family, the wolverine is one of the toughest animals in the world. Often regarded as the most ferocious of land animals, its only possible rival for that position is its warm climate relative, the honey badger. 

Rob says, “In a fight between a wolverine and a tiger, my money is on the wolverine.”

 Madeleine Smitham, Media Intern