This member of the weasel family resembles a small, short bear, with a dark brown shaggy coat and a bushy tail. A broad, light colored stripe extends from the shoulder on each side, crossing the rump at the base of the tail. Wolverines can weigh from 35-60 lbs (16-27kg), and measure from 35-45" (89-113cm). The wolverine is powerfully built, with a strong jaw adapted to a diet of frozen meat and bone. Males are 25-35% larger than females.
Wolverines spend the winters at high elevation and do not hibernate. They are superbly adapted to cold, snowy, winters; with a thick coat, short, rounded ears, and a strong build. A loping or bounding gait and stiff hairs on the bottom of the feet help the animal to move across the snow. Wolverine fur, which typically doesn't accumulate frost, was once used to trim parka hoods.
The wolverine has a very large home range, and will roam over hundreds of miles through a variety of habitats, from 1,600 to 14,000' in elevation. However, most sightings in California occur in remote and wild areas at about 8000'. In general, California wolverines seem to use open habitat, mostly at or above timberline. Female wolverines build dens to give birth and raise their young in.
Females typically select a den site on a rocky mountainside near or above timberline. They may den in caves, under cliff ledges, in hollow logs, or under rocks. Mother wolverines will sometimes tunnel through snow into natural chambers in talus (rock fields) to den. Females give birth to a litter of from 1-4 kits in late winter. Born with white fur and closed eyes, the kits are weaned at 9-10 weeks, and begin to travel with their mother by late May. Young wolverines may stay with their family group until they reach reproductive maturity at about 1 1/2 to 2 years old.
As it is nocturnal and has poor eyesight, the aardvark is cautious upon leaving its burrow. It comes to the entrance and stands there motionless for several minutes. Then it suddenly leaps out in powerful jumps. At about 30 feet out it stops, raises up on its legs, perks up its ears and turns its head in all directions. If there are no sounds, it makes a few more leaps and finally moves at a slow trot to look for food.
This large carnivore eats whatever it can capture or scavenge - ground squirrels, marmots, and other rodents, rabbits and hares, birds, insects, berries, fungi, and carrion - such as dead deer. Wolverines are occasionally able to capture a deer, or chase another predator away from a kill. A wolverine may range over 50 miles a day in search of food.
Wolverines are circumpolar, which means they are distributed around the world in forested zones of the northern hemisphere. In North America, before European settlement, wolverines were found in a broad range of habitats, over much of the northern continent from the east coast to the west, and south into Arizona, New Mexico, and the midwest. Historically, in California, wolverines were seen from Mt. Shasta in the north, through the Sierra, to the mountains of Tulare County in the south. They were also sighted in the north coast area.
As the continent was settled, wolverines retreated to remote forested and mountainous areas. In California, wolverines are now rarely sighted from Del Norte, Trinity, Shasta and Siskiyou Counties in the north, and south along the crest of the Sierra Nevada to Tulare County. Since wolverines are wary and elusive, sightings are rare, and it is hard to get an accurate population estimate.