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Wolverines in Michigan

Despite the fact that the Michigan state animal is the wolverine (and that this is the name of our most well-known collegiate sports team), it has been a matter of debate for decades whether or not the wolverine was ever native to Michigan. Wolverines were last spotted in Michigan in the early 1800’s, though it is uncertain if they had roamed in from Canada or were truly native to the area. Currently there are no wolverines in Michigan – at least as an indigenous, native animal.

The wolverine is a stocky, muscular carnivore that resembles a small bear, although it is more closely related to the weasel (it is in fact the largest creature in the weasel family). Wolverines currently only live in extreme northern climates, such as Alaska, Canada and Siberia, though they are believed to have once ranged over much of North America. The very large range of the wolverine makes it difficult to know if it was ever native to Michigan, as radio tracking devices have revealed wolverines to range several hundred miles.

In 2004, a wolverine was sighted in Huron County in Ubly, about 90 miles north of Detroit. The DNR called the sighting “unprecedented”, akin to a “caribou or polar bear” turning up in Michigan. The wolverine, an adult female, was sighted several times over the next six years and became somewhat of a regular in Huron County and Sanilac County; it was photographed extensively by Jeff Fords, a science teacher, until it died, apparently of natural causes, in March of 2010. The animal was the only wolverine ever verified in the State of Michigan.

Relatives of the wolverine include weasel and the mink, the latter common to Michigan.