, , , , ,

Why we are called the Wolverine State

Michiganians, especially fans of the University of Michigan, take pride in being called Wolverines. Yet, the wolverine has never been officially adopted as the state animal. It is even unclear if this largest member of the weasel family ever lived in Michigan. Wolverines also don‚Äôt have a good image. Their nicknames include Skunk Bear, Mountain Devil, and Evil Spirit. One person even claimed that a wolverine “makes a Tasmanian Devil look like a sissy.” So why are Michiganians called Wolverines?

The most popular origin of the nickname comes from the 1835 Toledo War between Michigan and Ohio. Since a wolverine has a reputation of being ornery, Ohioans called Michiganians “wolverines” as the two sides struggled over who owned the disputed Toledo Strip. Years later, the University of Michigan adopted the wolverine as its school mascot.

Today, wolverines live in cooler climates, like the northern portions of Europe, North America and Asia. They have thick, glossy, dark brown fur. Wolverines have patches of white fur, which is why they are often confused with skunks.

An adult male weighs about 36 pounds, and is 45 inches long and 18 inches tall. A wolverine’s teeth and claws are very sharp. Although not a skunk, a wolverine has scent glands that produce a strong musky odor. They use this to mark their territory.

Wolverines are noted for their strength and cunning behavior. Wolverines hunt alone and at night. They are carnivores and are not afraid to attack larger animals like sheep, deer or even small bears. Wolverines have driven packs of wolves from their kills. Humans hunt wolverines, which is why they are an endangered species.

Wolverines may not live in Michigan’s forests, but they do live at the Detroit Zoo. On February 25, 2005, Aggie gave birth to two wolverine kits. The kits, named Tamarack and Tilia, are the only surviving litter born at a North American zoo and the first ever surviving litter born at the Detroit Zoo. According to zoo officials, mother and children are doing fine.

For more great stories on Michigan’s past, look to Michigan History magazine. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/