1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Glutton

GLUTTON, or Wolverine (Gulo luscus), a carnivorous mammal belonging to the Mustelidae, or weasel family, and the sole representative of its genus. The legs are short and stout, with large feet, the toes of which terminate in strong, sharp claws considerably curved. The mode of progression is semiplantigrade. In size and form the glutton is something like the badger, measuring from 2 to 3 ft. in length, exclusive of the thick bushy tail, which is about 8 in. long. The head is broad, the eyes are small and the back arched. The fur consists of an undergrowth of short woolly hair, mixed with long straight hairs, to the abundance and length of which on the sides and tail the creature owes its shaggy appearance. The colour of the fur is blackish-brown, with a broad band of chestnut stretching from the shoulders along each side of the body, the two meeting near the root of the tail. Unlike the majority of arctic animals, the fur of the glutton in winter grows darker. Like other Mustelidae, the glutton is provided with anal glands, which secrete a yellowish fluid possessing a highly foetid odour. It is a boreal animal, inhabiting the northern regions of both hemispheres, but most abundant in the circumpolar area of the New World, where it occurs throughout the British provinces and Alaska, being specially numerous in the neighbourhood of the Mackenzie river, and extending southwards as far as New York and the Rocky Mountains. The wolverine is a voracious animal, and also one with an inquisitive disposition. It feeds on grouse, the smaller rodents and foxes, which it digs from their burrows during the breeding-season; but want of activity renders it dependent for most of its food on dead carcases, which it frequently obtains by methods that have made it peculiarly obnoxious to the hunter and trapper. Should the hunter, after succeeding in killing his game, leave the carcase insufficiently protected for more than a single night, the glutton, whose fear of snares is sufficient to prevent him from touching it during the first night, will, if possible, get at and devour what he can on the second, hiding the remainder beneath the snow. It annoys the trapper by following up his lines of marten-traps, often extending to a length of 40 to 50 m., each of which it enters from behind, extracting the bait, pulling up the traps, and devouring or concealing the entrapped martens. So persistent is the glutton in this practice, when once it discovers a line of traps, that its extermination along the trapper’s route is a necessary preliminary to the success of his business. This is no easy task, as the glutton is too cunning to be caught by the methods successfully employed on the other members of the weasel family. The trap generally used for this purpose is made to resemble a cache, or hidden store of food, such as the Indians and hunters are in the habit of forming, the discovery and rifling of which is one of the glutton’s most congenial occupations—the bait, instead of being paraded as in most traps, being carefully concealed, to lull the knowing beast’s suspicions. One of the most prominent characteristics of the wolverine is its propensity to steal and hide things, not merely food which it might afterwards need, or traps which it regards as enemies, but articles which cannot possibly have any interest except that of curiosity.

Glutton EB1911 vol.12 p.145.jpg

The Glutton, or Wolverine (Gulo luscus).

The following instance of this is quoted by Dr E. Coues in his work on the Fur-bearing Animals of North America: “A hunter and his family having left their lodge unguarded during their absence, on their return found it completely gutted—the walls were there, but nothing else. Blankets, guns, kettles, axes, cans, knives and all the other paraphernalia of a trapper’s tent had vanished, and the tracks left by the beast showed who had been the thief. The family set to work, and, by carefully following up all his paths, recovered, with some trifling exceptions, the whole of the lost property.” The cunning displayed by the glutton in unravelling the snares set for it forms at once the admiration and despair of every trapper, while its great strength and ferocity render it a dangerous antagonist to animals larger than itself, occasionally including man. The rutting-season occurs in March, and the female, secure in her burrow, produces her young—four or five at a birth—in June or July. In defence of these, she is exceedingly bold, and the Indians, according to Dr Coues, “have been heard to say that they would sooner encounter a she-bear with her cubs than a carcajou (the Indian name of the glutton) under the same circumstances.” On catching sight of its enemy, man, the wolverine before finally determining on flight, is said to sit on its haunches, and, in order to get a clearer view of the danger, shade its eyes with one of its fore-paws. When pressed for food it becomes fearless, and has been known to come on board an ice-bound vessel, and in presence of the crew seize a can of meat. The glutton is valuable for its fur, which, when several skins are sewn together, forms elegant hearth and carriage rugs. (R. L.*)