When you think of a wolverine, what comes to mind? Most people think of them as dirty, vicious predators that spend their lives totally alone except to mate; yet wolverine researchers in Montana found wolverine families sharing territory and even spending time with each other throughout the year. The Wolverine Way, by Douglas Chadwick, tells the story of a five year study of Glacier National Park’s wolverines, shedding light on the enigmatic wolverine while offering a window into wildlife research.
The writing flows between the project’s research methodology to anecdotal observations of wolverines, from the remarkable crew devoted to learning more about wolverines to mountain philosophy, from natural history to humorous moments in the life of a field biologist. Chadwick carefully hews to a delicate line between exploring “the wolverine way” based on his observations and the study’s results and mythologizing or sanitizing the wolverines. He never forgets that they are wild animals, not subject to human judgments.
“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.” (pg. 47 in hardback)
The book is as much about the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park as it is about wolverines; explanation of the animal is not complete without exploration of its habitat. And as Chadwick describes the mountains where he volunteers tracking wolverines, his own relationship with the mountains emerges in eloquent prose. His passion for the mountains and respect for wolverines fills his writing.
“The crags all around are beyond monumental; I’m a mote beneath them. They have endured for eons on end; my existence, by comparison, seems a passing glimmer, like the ring of ripples on a lake from the rise of a trout. The lesson from nature this grand, I would tell myself, is to at least have the grace to be humble. Then I started following wolverines around. They are smaller than I. Their life span is considerably shorter. Yet whatever they do, they do undaunted. They live life as fiercely and relentlessly as it has ever been lived.” (pg. 47 in hardback)
What caught me most about The Wolverine Way were Chadwick’s lessons from the mountains and the wolverines that live there. His musings and observations ring true to me, and I identify with the feelings he expresses for wild places.
“Once mountains lodge in your soul, the need to have real peaks around you becomes almost a physical itch.” (pg. 90 in hardback)
“We say of other creatures, “Ah, they’re just animals,” and they are. But we have to expand our definition of animal every time we get to know one better.” (pg. 240 in hardback)
Read The Wolverine Way to learn more about on-the-ground carnivore research, to delve into man’s relationship with mountains, but most of all to elevate your understanding of the amazing wolverine.