The wild Michigan wolverine
The state of Michigan probably has a wild wolverine living wild, although the area its living wildly in is not very wild. Isnt that wild?
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is about 90 percent certain the wolverine is not a captive that escaped or was turned loose. But its somewhat of a mystery why its in Huron County.
Huron County is not heavily populated, but it is highly agricultural due to extensive wetland draining by farmers. Huron County is in the tip of the thumb in the mitt-like shape that Michigan resembles. All but its southern edge is bordered by Lake Huron. The wolverine that was first tracked by coyote hunters is alone, and the sex is not known by DNR officials.
The press has touted this wolverine as the first wild one to grace Michigan land in 200 years. Yet its not a given that wolverines were ever part of Michigans natural history. Credible documentation does not exist of wolverine Michigan residency. Its kind of goofy if you think about college footballs Michigan Wolverines; the pride of Michigan may have a hollow name. According to state history, people from the territory that is now Ohio gave the name to those in the area that became Michigan because they were gluttonous like wolverines.
The Wolverine Foundation, based in Idaho, is aware of the Michigan wolverine, though they have not sent anyone to observe it. They are, however, doing research on wolverines in Ontario, Canada.
This effort, called the Boreal Wolverine Project, is a joint effort among Canadas Wildlife Conservation Society, Canadas Parks Service, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Wolverine Foundation. So far, extensive research has begun on six wolverines that were radio collared by project biologists.
According to the Wolverine Foundation, wolverine numbers are way up in Ontario, and the Foundation is pointing to the fact that hare populations are peaking as they do in cycles. Hare populations may be beefing up wolverine populations.
Wolverines are moving south in Ontario. Theyve been documented in Thunder Bay, Canada, which is close to the Great Lake of Huron. It wasnt too many years ago when Ontarios wolverines were only in the provinces upper third.
Now the biggest members of the weasel family are frolicking near Thunder Bay. With their habit of traveling great distances, its not hard to imagine a wolverine crossing a frozen Lake Huron, and that is what biologists think might have happened to the Michigan wolverine.
Wolverines reside in portions of the western U.S., primarily in the Rockies up through western Canada and Alaska. East of the Rockies in Canada, the wolverine range shifts far north to the boreal forests. The farther east you go, the farther north the populations are. So why are they moving south? The answer is probably more involved than a little rabbit meat.
Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associates degree in science and a bachelors in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.