Archive: How Swede It Is

Detroit Zoo welcomes breeding pair of wolverines

October 18, 2018

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has welcomed two wolverines to the Detroit Zoo from Sweden. Born in separate zoos, male Yaroslawl, 2, and female Janis, 1, are recommended to breed through the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) as part of a partnership between the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the European Association for Zoos and Aquaria to maintain a healthy population of wolverines.

There are currently 23 wolverines living in AZA-accredited zoos, 14 of which are Eurasian and part of the joint program between the AZA and EEP. While Detroit Zoo visitors are familiar with North American wolverines, Yaroslawl and Janis are the first Eurasian wolverines to live at the Zoo.

The wolverines’ arrival at the Detroit Zoo continues a 91-year tradition of caring for the species. A year before the Zoo was even open to the public, wolverines had already staked their claim. They were among the first species to arrive at the 125-acre wildlife attraction while it was still under construction in 1927 and have remained ever since.

“Wolverines have been a popular species at the Detroit Zoo since the beginning. They are well adapted to Michigan’s climate, and guests love watching them explore and play, particularly in the winter when they are especially active,” said Scott Carter, DZS chief life sciences officer.

With snow being an essential seasonal component of wolverines’ habitat requirements, Michigan is deemed an ideal environment for them. They have hydrophobic fur that is resistant to the harsh elements of winter such as frost and snow, and their kits are even born white so they are camouflaged in winter. These members of the weasel family have powerful jaws and long claws that help them rip into their food.

Once abundant in population, North American and Eurasian wolverines – the two known sub-species – are facing conservation concerns due to persecution, deforestation and other human developments. The wild European population was recently estimated at approximately 2,260 individuals throughout Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway.