Wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family. They are powerfully built, with strong jaws and teeth, yet rarely weigh more than 18 kilograms.
Wolverines are known historically to have lived in Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec and Labrador. However, habitat loss and human disturbance have had a significant negative impact on wolverine survival. In recent years there have been only four or five wolverine sightings annually in the whole of eastern Canada. Ontario’s northern boreal is now the eastern limit of the known range for wolverines in Canada. The southern limit within Ontario roughly matches the current 51° cutline. With fewer roads and more intact forests to the north, wolverines have more protection from hunting and trapping.
Recent surveys undertaken by the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Wolverine Foundation, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources suggest that, since the 1980s, wolverine populations have been recovering north of the 51st parallel, including in Ecoregion 3S. This good news may be short-lived, however. If development continues to push northward, bringing with it increased road access, human hunting and trapping, this population rebound may be but a temporary recovery. Further, it may result in a permanently lost opportunity to restore once abundant wolverine populations in more eastern regions of Canada.
According to Native American lore, the wolverine is a trickster-hero and a link to the spirit world. Due to their scavenging food habits, they also have become regarded as thieves, a reputation that often puts them in direct conflict with human hunters and trappers.
Wolverines, especially males, are travellers. Young looking to establish new territories will travel up to 300 kilometres. Such long-distance travel puts them at risk of coming into conflict with human hunters and busy roads.
Sub-adult males may have temporary home ranges as large as 3,500 square kilometres. As a result, wolverines tend to be thinly dispersed across a large landscape area. Combined with naturally low reproductive rates, this leaves them vulnerable to local extinction in the face of habitat loss, hunting pressure or a handful of road traffic casualties.