gulo gulo: The Wolverine and Why Michigan is the Wolverine State

Gulo gulo

Gulo gulo, photo by anikarenina.

Wikipedia’s wolverine entry says that the wolverine (Gulo gulo), also referred to as glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, quickhatch, or gulon, is the largest land-dwelling species of the Mustelidae (weasel) family in the genus Gulo (Latin: “glutton”). It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids. The wolverine has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times its size.

For more detailed information and photos, check out gulo gulo (wolverine) from the UM Animal Diversity Web. You can also see videos of the wolverine at ARKive.

Speaking of videos, recently Michigan lost its only known wild wolverine. Just days before, the Bay City Times put together this cool feature on Deckerville High School science teacher Jeff Ford’s longtime fascination with the wolverine that includes photos and video.

As to the question of why Michigan is called the Wolverine State, I couldn’t find anything definitive, but 50 States offers two theories:

Some people believe that Ohioans gave Michigan the nickname “The Wolverine State” around 1835 during a dispute over the Toledo strip, a piece of land along the border between Ohio and Michigan. Rumors in Ohio at the time described Michiganians as being as vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines. This dispute became known as the Toledo War.

Another reason given for the nickname is a story that has Native Americans, during the 1830s, comparing Michigan settlers to wolverines. Some native people, according to this story, disliked the way settlers were taking the land because it made them think of how the gluttonous wolverine went after its food.

About this photo, Andrea writes:

Everett adopted a Detroit Zoo wolverine for me for Valentine’s Day last year. The zoo’s “Wildlife Preservers” adoption package came with a cute stuffed wolverine that we named Winchell.

Detroit’s wolverines produced 2 kits in 2005, who were fondly nicknamed Bucky and Sparty by the zookeepers. At the time, there were only 77 wolverines in captivity in North America, and Aggie’s litter was the only pair of surviving kits that year–and Detroit’s first surviving wolverine kits ever. Their official names are now Tamarack and Tilia.

See this photo bigger or in her Detroit Zoo set (slideshow).

More animals from Michigan in Pictures.

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