, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 199-204
Date: 09 Nov 2012

The diet of breeding female wolverines (Gulo gulo) in two areas of Finland

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The wolverine (Gulo gulo) hunts and scavenges for food. We examined how the presence of a semi-domesticated reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) influences the diet of breeding female wolverines in Finland. We compared the dietary composition of wolverines breeding in the reindeer management area (northern Finland) with that of wolverines breeding outside this area (eastern Finland) by analyzing 421 scats collected from six active dens in northern Finland and four dens in eastern Finland during 2004–2006. The occurrence of food sources in the diet was assessed for both areas using logistic mixed-effects models. Diet breadth per study area was also calculated. As expected, semi-domesticated reindeer was the most important food source (66 %) in northern Finland. Mountain hares (Lepus timidus) were the second most important food item (16 %). Wolverines also utilized grouse (7 %), small rodents (6 %), and moose (Alces alces; 4 %) in their diet. In eastern Finland, the most utilized prey species was moose (55 %), while the diet also comprised mountain hares (13 %), domestic pigs (Sus scrofa; 13 %), grouse (11 %), and small rodents (2 %). The diet of wolverines in eastern Finland included more moose and less semi-domesticated reindeers and small rodents than in northern Finland. The niche breadth did not differ between the study areas. In eastern Finland, the diet of wolverines shifted to 55 % moose and 0 % semi-domesticated reindeer; compared to 4 % moose and 66 % semi-domesticated reindeer in northern Finland. Our study highlights the important role of ungulates in the diet of breeding female wolverines. In areas with a low density of medium-sized ungulates, scavenging for wolf- and human-killed moose and carcasses on feeding sites plays an essential role in food acquisition by wolverines.

Communicated by: Dries Kuijper