Yellowstone Wolverines Cling to a Tough Life

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While it’s true that the honey badger don’t give a shit, truly the hardiest, most badass animal must be the wolverine. Biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society recently completed an eight-year study of Yellowstone National Park’s wolverines, and while it doesn’t add a ton to our common knowledge of the burly mammals, it reinforces just how harsh their lives are: Females give birth in snow caves at 9,000 feet, males range over territories covering 500 square miles, and the scrappy animals do battle with grizzly bears many times their size.

One of the coolest findings is that wolverines can cross the Tetons in just a few hours, even in the deepest snow. While other species either hibernate or move to lower terrain in the winter, WCS biologists found that wolverines continue to patrol their high-mountain terrain throughout the coldest months, seeking scraps of meat that they hide beneath boulders and snow.

“We learned that wolverines are adapted to eke out a living in very harsh conditions,” said WCS biologist Robert Inman. “As a result, they naturally exist in low numbers and reproduce slowly.”

Wolverines “are specialists at exploiting a cold, unproductive niche,” the study says. Just like skiers, snowboarders, and ice climbers.

Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit www.patagonia.com.

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