Wolverines' reputation: Vicious killing machines that are afraid of nothing. They ar..
Wolverines' reputation: Vicious killing machines that are afraid of nothing. They are notoriously elusive and difficult to study. They look great without a shirt on.
Reality: Yeah, you probably don’t want to be locked in a cage with a wolverine (unless it’s Hugh Jackman). But killing machines? While wolverines are cunning carnivores, they are as likely to be playful, nurturing, and at times overcome by behaviour-altering fear.
Wolverines are ferocious killing machines, yes, but there’s also some evidence that their hissy fits are just for show -- demonic displays performed not as a precursor to a good lashing, but simply to scare away the threat, be it a bigger predator or a human.
In short, the wolverine often bluffs, exaggerating its fearsomeness.
Dr Jason Fisher, a wildlife ecologist, has seen this firsthand. While tracking a wolverine, he accidentally cornered it in a spruce thicket. The spruce shook, hissed and screamed in a way that petrified him. Fisher stood his ground, and instead of attacking, the wolverine eventually backed away, shrieking the whole time.
Why develop such an amazing ability to bluff? It turns out wolverines have a history of having to watch their back. “Their life history is one of a scavenging carnivore, which means they feed on carcasses,” says Fisher, adding that wolverines aren’t the only ones wanting a piece of the decaying action. Wolves, black bears, grizzly bears, raptors and cougars also like to saddle up to any rotting meat buffet.
Weighing 20-40 pounds (9-18 kg), wolverines are much smaller creatures than most of the predators they share habitat with, and so, says Fisher, naturally they need to exercise some discretion. “In nature, body size usually wins out.” Fisher has seen internet videos of wolverines facing off against bears, but usually it doesn’t come to a fight. Rather it seems to be a battle of wills, complete with wolverine temper tantrums. The wolverines win some and lose some, but in general it makes more sense to bluff than to actually fight with other predators. Sometimes, “they do get killed and eaten,” says Fisher.
If Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has taught us anything, it’s that beneath that rock hard, muscly exterior there is more to the mutant than sneering at enemies and ripping things apart. The same can be said for his wild, weaselly namesake. Wolverines show surprising flexibility in their behaviours. They are extremely sensitive, and if we want them on the landscape, we need to see past the myth. “We think of them as tough and ferocious, and incredibly resilient. You can do anything to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, and he’ll bounce back,” says Fisher. “But that’s not what we’re seeing with real wolverines at all. They’ve been wiped out of half the continent already, and where they exist currently, they’re under a whole range of threats.
Popular culture creates misconceptions about many species, and when we look beyond the stories we've always heard, we invariably develop much more respect for the animals behind the myths. The greater our respect for animals, the less our desire to eat them. KindMeal.my exists to offer Malaysians more compassionate, plant-based meals that are every bit as satisfying as those containing meat. (Oh, and by the way -- Hugh Jackman is a vegetarian!)
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