Species Profile

Wolverine Eastern population

Scientific Name: Gulo gulo
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2014
Last COSEWIC Designation: Non-active
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Related Species

Wolverine Special Concern No Status

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Other Protection or Status | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Wolverine

Wolverine Photo 1



The Wolverine is compact, powerful, and resembles a small bear with a long bushy tail. It has a large broad head with strong jaws. Its legs are short with large feet. An adult male measures about 1 m from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, and weighs between 12 and 16 kg; the female is usually smaller than the male. At birth, the Wolverine's coat is cream coloured with darker legs and a masked face. Adults have long, thick, glossy dark brown fur that is paler on the head, and two yellowish stripes which start at the shoulders and meet at the rump. Some individuals have a white patch on the neck and chest.


Distribution and Population

The Wolverine is a holarctic species that is distributed across North America and Eurasia. In Canada, there are two separate populations: the Eastern population, which is listed as endangered but may be extirpated, is limited to Quebec and Labrador; and the Western population, which is sparsely distributed across the Boreal, Arctic, Northern Mountain, Southern Mountain, and Pacific ecological regions. There have been no verified reports of Wolverines in Quebec since 1978, or in Labrador since 1950, but there are unconfirmed reports almost every year.



The Wolverine needs vast undisturbed areas to maintain viable populations because it has a low reproductive rate, low population density, and large home range. It inhabits a variety of treed and treeless areas at all elevations including the northern forested wilderness, the alpine tundra of the western mountains, and the arctic tundra. The Wolverine is most abundant where large ungulates are common.



The Wolverine has long held a place in folklore as a beast of great ferocity, cunning, and extraordinary strength. First Nations mythology describes the Wolverine as a trickster-hero, and a link to the spirit world. The Wolverine occurs in such low numbers across most of its remote habitat, and is so mobile, that it is extremely difficult to study. Wolverines are nonmigratory and do not hibernate in the winter. They are active both day and night, and often alternate three to four hour periods of activity and sleep. They can travel for long distances, climb trees, and swim. Their broad feet and muscular limbs allow them to chase down their prey — even on soft snow. They occupy large home ranges that vary from 50 to 400 km2 for females, and 230 to 1580 km2 for males. There is overlap between home ranges, and a certain portion of the population is transient at any given time. Transients are typically yearlings, and these dispersing individuals may travel more than 200 km. Wolverines are omnivorous, consuming a wide variety of scavenged or fresh food items ranging from large ungulates such as moose, caribou, and mountain goats, to smaller animals such as beavers, porcupines, ground squirrels, and fish, to roots and berries. In turn, the Wolverine is preyed upon by bears, wolves, cougars, Golden Eagles, and other Wolverines. Wolverines are sexually mature at two to three years of age. Between April and September, the animals come together in pairs to breed. Pairs last only for a few days, and both males and females may remate several times with other individuals. The fertilised egg does not start to develop until it is implanted many months later. This delayed implantation accommodates mating in the summer when the females are more sedentary, while ensuring that the young are born at the optimal time of year for their survival. The females build dens, either in rocky slopes, deadfall, or snow tunnels, in which they give birth to young between late March and mid-April. Litters of two or three young are common, but females do not bear young every year. The young typically nurse for 8 to 10 weeks, separate from the mother in the autumn, and attain adult size after about seven months. The low reproduction rate of the Wolverine means that the population is not able to recover quickly after population declines.


Declines in the Eastern population of the Wolverine are related to a combination of factors: hunting and trapping in the late 19th century, dwindling caribou herds in the early 20th century, human encroachment on habitat, reduction in the number of wolves, and the indiscriminate use of poison baits.



Other Protection or Status

The Wolverine is listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Wolverine (Gulo gulo L.), Eastern population, in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

CWS-Quebec Species at Risk Recovery Unit

  • Unité du rétablissement des espèces en péril du SCF-QC - Chair/Contact -
    Phone: 1-855-253-6708  Send Email

Labrador Wolverine Working Group

  • Robert Otto - Chair/Contact - Government of NL
    Phone: 709-637-6200  Fax: 709-639-7591  Send Email

Wolverine Recovery Planning Team (Eastern Population)

  • Isabelle Thibault - Chair/Contact - Government of Quebec
    Phone: 418-627-8694  Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date A recovery plan was published for Wolverine (eastern population) in 2005, with an aim of establishing a self-sustaining Wolverine population in Quebec and Labrador. Because Wolverines are able to sustain themselves at low population densities, the recovery team proposes a target population size of 100 adult Wolverines. The team is evaluating the feasibility and advisability of a re-introduction program. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Research has shown that availability of prey and suitable habitat in Quebec are sufficient to support Wolverine. It is therefore not clear what factors are preventing the species? recovery, but it may be that at such low population densities, the probability of males and females encountering one other during the mating season is very low. In 2000, the Centre for the Conservation of Boreal Biodiversity in Quebec started a captive breeding program for Wolverine (see conservation at www.borealie.org). Wolverines in the wild are difficult to study, because of their large ranges and low densities, so many basics of Wolverine biology have been learned through this program. Several young have been born at the centre and findings about Wolverine breeding behaviour and requirements are being incorporated into captive rearing protocols. In 2005, an aerial survey of northern Labrador is being conducted to clarify the current population status of the eastern Wolverine. Summary of Recovery Activities Recovery actions will depend on the results of more extensive population surveys and an assessment of whether population augmentation is required for recovery. URLswww.borealie.org

Hinterland Who's Who: Wolverine: http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?pid=1&cid=8&id=108



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Wolverine Gulo gulo in Canada (2015)

    Wolverines are a stocky, medium-sized carnivore and the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. They have long, glossy coarse fur, which varies from brown to black, often with a pale facial mask and stripes running laterally from the shoulders, crossing just above the tail. The skull structure is robust, allowing it to crush and consume bones and frozen carcasses. Adult males weigh 13 to 18 kg and adult females weigh 7.5 to 12.5 kg.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Wolverine (2003)

    Canadian range considered as one population in April 1982 and designated Special Concern. Split into two populations in April 1989 (Western population and Eastern population). Eastern population was designated Endangered in April 1989 and confirmed in May 2003. Last assessment was based on an update status report. Western population was designated Special Concern in April 1989 and confirmed in May 2003. Last assessment was based on an update status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Wolverine (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Wolverine (Gulo gulo L.), Eastern population, in Canada (2016)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister(s) under SARA for the Wolverine, Eastern population and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with First Nations, Aboriginal communities and the governments of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.
  • Order Extending the Time for the Assessment of the Status of Wildlife Species (2006)

    The time provided for the assessment of the status of the wildlife species set out in the schedule is extended for 3 years from the day on which section 14 of the Species at Risk Act comes into force.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017