I came across another Russian blog featuring stories of wolverines in Kronotsky Zapovednik in Kamchatka. This one is by Alexey Bezrukov, who encountered a mother wolverine and three kits sometime in March. There are some incredible shots of the kits, variously playing with items, hanging out with their mom, attempting to raid a cabin, and investigating the camera. My favorite features a wolverine making off with an apparently hand-made ski – two items high on my list of great things that the world has to offer.
Bezrukov says that he first encountered these wolverines while out skiing. He saw a mother with one kit, and then behind them, two more kits. When the wolverines first spotted him, they dashed into a nearby alder thicket and hid. Bezrukov continued skiing, and, looking over, realized that one of the kits was running alongside him, looking at him. The wolverine kit looked thin, the fur not in good condition, but the other wolverines appeared healthy. All three wolverines seemed to be making an effort to get in front of him and look him in the face. He stopped, took off his skis, and got out his camera.
The wolverines circled around, but quickly grew bored with Bezrukov’s motionless figure. When they started to leave, however, he whistled, and one of them came back. It became interested in the skis, and dragged one off into the bushes. Bezrukov was so enthralled that he simply watched – until he noticed chips of wood flying off the front of the ski. At that point, he intervened to save his means of transportation. The wolverine, looking at him “with round hurt eyes, like a child with a favorite new toy taken away,” turned its back on him and left. He whistled after it, trying to make amends, but the wolverine was too upset (or had simply lost interest….) and disappeared.
But the little wolverine got over its pique, and Bezrukov and various guests saw the wolverine family again. One morning he awoke to a scratching noise, and found the wolverine pawing the window sill outside his cabin. He stepped outside to see the entire area around the cabin trampled by wolverine prints. Later, the mother and all three kits also came into the yard, providing entertainment for Bezrukov and friends, “not just allowing a short glimpse from far away, but coming close.” The wolverines even took up temporary residence under the guest house when the guests left, and began climbing a ladder to access the roof.
A few days after the guests left, Buzrukov noticed that two of his three snow shovels had disappeared. He spent some time searching and trying to figure out what his guests had done with them. The answer became clear when he looked out the window to see two wolverines playing with the one remaining shovel, dragging it off. Eventually they returned it, and, having learned his lesson, he thereafter brought his skis, shovels, and other equipment indoors at night.
I am not sure whether these are 2010’s kits, or 2011’s. If they were born in 2011, they are out really early and were certainly born before February. They seem to be last year’s kits, traveling with their mom (or, if they are yearlings, possibly their father.) But in a few shots, they still look too baby-ish to be yearlings. The presence of three kits suggests – yet again, as did Igor Shpilenok’s story of six wolverines at a carcass – that Kamchatka is an especially favorable place for wolverines, supporting a high density of the animals and allowing, at least in some cases, higher-than-average reproduction.
Bezrukov’s first encounter with this family reminds me of Jason Wilmot’s story of his first encounter with a wolverine, which was remarkably similar; skiing in Glacier, he looked over and realized that a wolverine was running alongside him, looking at him. I’ve heard several similar tales from skiers, and a couple from paranoid snowmobilers who were convinced that the wolverine in question was attempting to kill them. Many stories of wolverines “chasing” people with aggressive intent exist, and these stories are reiterated in the comments on Bezrukov’s and Shpilenok’s blogs, which seem to reinforce a Russian perception that wolverines are vicious and dangerous (both authors, thankfully, quickly dispel these myths, and also refute a figure apparently circulating in Russia, that wolverines are detrimental to hunters, since each wolverine is reported to kill 150 deer a year -a figure that, as Bezrukov points out, is absurd.) Wolverines are curious animals, and most of these tales of being chased probably stem from startled people realizing that an apparently fearless animal is pacing them, looking them in the eye. Don’t worry, folks – they aren’t sizing you up for dinner. They are probably just saying hello.