Animals -> Mammals -> Furbearers -> Wolverine


The following cultures are reported to have hunted and eaten wolverine in times of scarcity: Gitskan (Gitxsan), Tahltan, Han, Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in), Crow River Kutchin, Netsilik Inuit and Iglulik Inuit [1-6]. The following cultures are also reported to have hunted wolverine: Kalispel, Tlingit, Ingalik, Vunta Kutchin, Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit, Koyukon, Nuiqsut Inupiat, Kotzebue Sound Inupiat, Plains Cree, Chipewyan and Mistissini Cree [7-19]. The Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Richibucto, Nuvorugmiut of Kugaluk and Omushkego Cree of Ontario are also reported to have hunted wolverine [20-22]. The Micmac did not eat them; they usually slaughtered them as vermin. Both the Micmac and Nuvorugmiut hunted them for their fur and the latter used the skins for making clothing [21, 22].


Wolverine was trapped by deadfalls, pitfalls, snares and, more recently, steel traps. The Kalispel and Kotzebue Sound Inupiat used deadfalls [8, 18]. The Crow River Kutchin dug pitfalls five feet deep and four feet wide; these were made near their permanent camps in autumn before the ground was completely frozen. Eight-inch sharp-pointed bones were fastened to poles forced into the ground at the base of the pitfall. After the ground froze, one-inch thick slabs of snow were placed on the opening and bait was spread on top. When the wolverine approached the bait, the animal would fall in head first and be pierced through the chest [3]. Netsilik Inuit sporadically trapped and snared wolverine [1]. Mistissini Cree captured them in steel traps and shot them, but they were usually caught accidentally in traps set for other animals. They would then be skinned from the tail or head [12].

Some cultures pursued wolverine if encountered, not for sustenance, but because the animal was destructive: they were known to destroy permanent and temporary caches and other animals already in traps in the Vunta Kutchin and Kalispel regions – at every opportunity, they were trapped and slaughtered [7, 18].

Uses other than food
The Peel River Kutchin, Crow River Kutchin, Tahltan and Chipewyan trapped wolverine for its fur [3, 4, 13]. The Yukon Ingalik traded wolverine skins and wooden bowls with the people of Norton Sound in return for seal oil and marine mammal skins. The Kuskokwim Ingalik traded the skins along with marten and beaver skins, spruce gum, caribou sinew and birchbark canoes to the Kuskowagamiut Yupik in exchange for seal oil, seal skins, squirrel skins, tooth ornaments, and frozen and dried fish [14]. The Kotzebue Sound Inupiat used the fur for trimming on gloves [8]. The Han also used the fur [5].


1.         Balikci A: Netsilik. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Edited by Damas D. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1984: 415-424.

2.         The People of 'Ksan: Gathering What the Great Nature Provided. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, Ltd.; 1980.

3.         Osgood C: Material Culture: Food. In: Contributions to the Ethnography of the Kutchin. edn. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1936: 23-39.

4.         Emmons GT: The Tahltan Indians, vol. Anthropological Publications Vol. IV No. 1. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania: The Museum; 1911.

5.         Osgood C: The Han Indians: A Compilation of Ethnographic and Historical Data on the Alaska-Yukon Boundary Area, vol. Yale University Publications in Anthropology Number 74. New Haven: Department of Anthropology Yale University; 1971.

6.         Eidlitz K: Food and Emergency Food in the Circumpolar Area. In.; 1969.

7.         Balikci A: Game Distribution. In: Vunta Kutchin Social Change A Study of the People of Old Crow, Yukon Territory. edn. Ottawa: Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources; 1963.

8.         Burch ES, Jr.: Kotzebue Sound Eskimo. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Edited by Damas D. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1984: 303-311.

9.         Hoffman D, Libbey D, Spearman G: Nuiqsut: Land Use Values Through Time in the Nuiqsut Area, vol. revised edition. Fairbanks: University of Alaska; 1988.

10.       McFadyen Clark A: Koyukon. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6: Subarctic. edn. Edited by Helm J. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1981: 582-590.

11.       Oberg K: The Annual Cycle of Production. In: The Social Economy of the Tlingit Indians. edn.: University of Washington Press; 1973: 65.

12.       Rogers ES: The Quest for Food and Furs: The Mistassini Cree, 1953-1954. Ottawa: Museums of Canada; 1973.

13.       Smith JGE: Chipewyan. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6: Subarctic. edn. Edited by Helm J. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1981: 271-277.

14.       Snow JH: Ingalik. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6: Subarctic. edn. Edited by Helm J. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1981: 602-607.

15.       Spencer RF: North Alaska Coast Eskimo. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Edited by Damas D. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1984: 320-330.

16.       Vanstone JW: Athapaskan Adaptations: Hunters and Fishermen of the Subarctic Forests. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company; 1974.

17.       Friesen TM, Arnold CD: Zooarchaeology of a focal resource: Dietary importance of Beluga Whales to the Precontact Mackenzie Inuit. Arctic 1995, 48(1):22-30.

18.       Lahren SL, Jr.: Kalispel. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 283-288.

19.       Mandelbaum DG: The Plains Cree: An Ethnographic, Historical, and Comparative Study, vol. 1st edition. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center; 1979.

20.       Berkes F, George PJ, Preston RJ, Hughes.A, Turner J, Cummins BD: Wildlife Harvesting and Sustainable Regional Native Economy in the Hudson and James Bay Lowland, Ontario. Arctic 1994, Vol. 47 No. 4:350-360.

21.       Morrison DA: The Kugaluk Site and the Nuvorugmiut: The Archaeology and History of a Nineteenth-Century Mackenzie Inuit Society. Hull, Quebec: National Musems of Canada; 1988.

22.       Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of animals and plants by the Micmac Indians of New Brunswick. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1951, 41(8):250-259.


The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is a medium-sized mammalian carnivore occurring in northern Canada and Alaska, across British Columbia, and along the Rocky Mountains. They are most often in remote areas far from human activities, either in alpine, lowlands, or coastal tundra habitats.

Wolverines are one of the largest members of the mustelid family, including weasels, the mink (Neovison vison), the American marten (Martes americana), the fisher (Martes pennanti), and otter species. Like other mustelids, the wolverine has dense fur, highly prized in the fur industry, long canines, rounded ears, and short limbs. They are bulkier than most other weasels and have the shape of a small bear, typically weighing 13 kg and being more adapted to dig preys out of their burrows than entering to catch them. They have a dark brown pelage with a tan forehead and mid-body band and white spots on the chest.

Wolverines are most often roaming alone on their large home range, covering up to 600 square km. They produce one litter per year with 2 or 3 pups born in late winter or early spring in a den under snow, rocks, or roots. They are mostly scavengers, feeding on dead animals, but can also prey on caribou, ground squirrels, ptarmigan, and hares. They are quite aggressive, tireless in searching for food, and can be quite annoying around traplines, disturbing baits, catches, and cabins.


Wilson DE, Ruff S: The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press; 1999.


Images provided below were obtained from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - North American Mammals. Available from
Credit: painting by Consie Powell from Kays and Wilson's Mammals of North America, © Princeton University Press (2002)
Credit: Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy — Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International — CABS, World Wildlife Fund — US, and Environment Canada — WILDSPACE.