Dispatches from the wild:

X-Men movies have furthered the confusion, for, despite steel claws and generous fur, Hugh Jackman’s character is simply too wimpy when measured against the real deal.

For starters, wolverines – like all their mustelid brethren, including marten, ermine, minks, ferrets, badgers, fishers and otters – tick at a higher metabolic rate than other animals. They keep on the move both day and night whether raiding eggs in the nest, gobbling ripe berries or taking down a big-horn sheep, patrolling the landscape at will. One travelled 800 kilometres, and visited three American states, in 10 days. Another climbed the near-vertical face of Mount Cleveland in January. Notably, it completed the 1,500-metre technical climb – which would have taken experienced alpinists the better part of a day – in a heart-bursting 90 minutes.

Their strength is off the chart, capable of crushing bones grizzlies have given up on, and tearing apart solid logs in search of grubs. One was recorded taking down a full-grown (although probably sick) moose.

“They may just be the toughest animal in the world,” Douglas H. Chadwick says in his book The Wolverine Way. “When you weigh 15 kg and can back a full grown grizzly off a kill, that is just plain badass.”

“If wolverines have a strategy, it’s this: Go hard, and high, and steep, and never back down, not even from the biggest grizzly, and least of all from a mountain. Climb everything: trees, cliffs, avalanche chutes, summits. Eat everybody: alive, dead, long-dead, moose, mouse, fox, frog, its still warm heart or frozen bones. Whatever wolverines do, they do undaunted. They live life as fiercely and relentlessly as it has ever been lived.”

When I was a kid I heard of a story of a wolverine that was shot six times and barely broke stride as it ran away. No doubt survived and lived as long a life as such a being can.

Nature’s original experiment in super-heroism.

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