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Beasts of the Boreal
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Beasts of the Boreal

By Tom O’NeillPhotographs by Antti Leinonen


Enter the deep forests of Finland and meet the misunderstood wolverine: shy, playful, and opportunistic.



Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

Tall tales and superstitions cling to the wolverine like a sorcerer’s cloak, thickly furred. A wolverine will leap from a tree to kill a reindeer. It will shadow a trapper and break down his door to devour him. Sleeping under a wolverine skin condemns a person to endless hunger.

Naturalists who study wolverines and have seen their bared teeth and flashing claws understand the roots of these exaggerated tales. Yet this carnivore, which weighs up to 45 pounds (20 kilograms) and is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family, would rather run up a tree or duck into a den than fight anything its size or larger.

Rodents, fish, reptiles, and birds are favorite prey, but wolverines usually prefer carrion. Gulo gulo—the glutton—is a prime scavenger who buries for later use some of the meat it tears off. Having observed this wary creature in the forests surrounding Kuhmo, Finland, for 15 years, photographer Antti Leinonen provides rare glimpses of the true wolverine—a shy, secretive opportunist with a penchant for play.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.



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In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
The University of Michigan adopted the wolverine as the school mascot in the earliest days of its history. But contrary to common belief, the wolverine is not indigenous to the state of Michigan. When U. of M. football coach Fielding H. Yost decided he wanted live wolverines to attend football games in 1924, he had to search far and wide. Three years later the Detroit Zoo obtained ten wolverines and lent two to Yost before each football game. However, Yost had not accounted for the rapid growth or the ferocity of the animals, and when his players were no longer willing to carry the wolverines around the stadium, one live mascot, "Biff," was turned over to the University of Michigan Zoo so that the students would be able to visit—and be inspired by—him. The other was returned to the Detroit Zoo.

—Maggie Bradburn

Did You Know?

Related Links
The Wolverine Foundation
www.wolverinefoundation.org/
Visit this comprehensive website to learn about the wolverine’s habitat, behavior, eating habits, and ecology. Also, read up-to-date research conducted by experts in the field.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game
www.state.ak.us/local/akpages/FISH.GAME/notebook/furbear/wolverin.htm
This website explores the domain of the wolverine in Alaska and includes its life history.

Walker’s Mammals of the World
www.press.jhu.edu/books/walker/w-contents.html
An encyclopedic description of the wolverine, including its eating habits, physical description, and geographic distribution.

Predator Conservation
www.predatorconservation.org
This site contains detailed information about wolverine biology. Links to press releases and articles are included.

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Bibliography
Gilbert, Bil. The Weasels. Pantheon Books, 1970.

Krajick, Kevin. “The Fugitive,” Audubon (January-February 1997), 69-74.

Nault, Andy. Staying Alive in Alaska’s Wild. Tee Loftin Publishers, Inc., 1980.

Rozell, Ned. “On the Track of the Wolverine,” Alaska Science Forum, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. April 13, 1999.

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NGS Resources
Setzer, Henry W. National Geographic Book of Mammals. National Geographic Books, 1998.

“Fierce Wolverines: Animals of the North,” World (January 1988), 14-16.

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