Last month, the University of Michigan Press released The Lone Wolverine, by Elizabeth Philips Shaw and Jeff Ford. The book follows the peculiar story of a female wolverine who showed up in the Michigan Thumb in 2004, and who was subsequently tracked and documented by Ford, a high school science teacher who became intrigued by and eventually deeply devoted to the animal. The wolverine died of natural causes in 2010, but by that time Ford had obtained several DNA samples that sparked on-going controversy about the animal’s origins. I just finished reading the book yesterday and will review it here shortly.
In the meantime, Jeff Ford’s “Pretty Gal” continues to inspire Michiganders as she goes on tour throughout Michigan, in conjunction with Ford and Shaw’s book tour. Two articles – here and here – give some details about the upcoming tour, while Ford’s book continues to generate buzz – including a poll by one Michigan news outlet, querying whether or not Michigan should consider reintroducing wolverines to the state. The results of the poll will be out on Friday, so weigh in while you can.
The origin of the Michigan wolverine remains contested. Either hypothesis – captive release or dispersal from Ontario – seems plausible, but ultimately her origin doesn’t matter. The story of Ford’s relationship with this particular wolverine doesn’t depend on her birthplace to make its point, and regardless of where she came from, the Michigan Thumb is unlikely to ever support a breeding population of gulos. Tangentially related to this discussion, however, people are seeing and trapping wolverines (a previous post here and another incident reported here highlight two cases of male wolverines trapped this spring) in areas of southern Ontario where the species hasn’t been documented before, and that are well within wolverine travel distance of the Great Lakes. The Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources is asking people to report all wolverine sightings in the region. Wolverines are a protected species in Ontario (at least one of the trapping incidents was accidental.) If you do see one of these animals or sign in Ontario, document the evidence if you can, leave the animal alone, and let someone know.