Environment & Science
3:26 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Michigan's lone wolverine now part of traveling exhibit

Few people believed stories about a live Wolverine spotted in Michigan a few years ago.

But a Thumb-area man proved it:  Jeff Ford's trail camera captured images of the animal.

Then some hikers discovered the Wolverine's body in 2010 in Minden.

The state of Michigan paid a taxidermist to preserve the animal. Now it's in an exhibit that travels around the state.

Kevin Frailey is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

He says there's no proof of where this animal came from or whether Wolverines were ever native to Michigan.

"They're a very difficult species to study," Frailey says. "We probably know less about this critter than just about any mammal in North America."

Wolverines are found out West and in Canada.

How this particular animal came to Michigan is a mystery.

"One story is that it came in a garbage truck, because we shipped in so many truckloads from Canada to a landfill, where the wolverine was originally spotted by coyote hunters," Frailey says.

Wolverines do have a wide range.

"There were some DNA studies done on this animal, and depending on which scientist you talk to, they were about 98 percent conclusive it was from Alaska or British Columbia," Frailey says. "The genetics would make us believe  it was maybe brought here from out West, but there is always that interesting thing about nature that you're never 100 percent sure."

The closest verified population is about 500 miles from where the Michigan wolverine was found.

The most prevailing theory, Frailey says, is that during the fur-trading years, a lot of Wolverine pelts were passed through Mackinaw, then traded  and shipped out east. People just assumed the pelts were from Michigan.

Frailey says it's speculated that Native  Americans called white men wolverines, "because we were voracious about capturing and taking away land -- and wolverines have a voracious appetite."

Wolverines are predators, Frailey says, but they are primarily scavengers.

"They eat carcasses of dead animals," Frailey says. "And  they were not beloved by Native Americans or trappers, because they were always stealing.

"Another legend is that during the Toledo War, (1835-36)  people from Ohio called Michiganders 'dirty, filthy rotten wolverines,'" Frailey says. "But in nature, they're a fantastic animal."

The exhibit will be in Hartwick Pines State Park and Escanaba this summer.