Saturday, April 7, 2012

THE LONE WOLVERINE: Michigan's Most Elusive Animal

The Lone Wolverine author Elizabeth Shaw
photo by Jonathan Schechter

For 370 days self made naturalist Jeff  Ford searched for tracks after an earlier confirmation of an elusive ghost-like wolverine. He traipsed through the mud, snow, rains, swamps, forests and farm lands of what Michiganders call "The Thumb" of mitten-shaped lower Michigan. And then he captured her on film. That moment caused another great stir of excitement among biologists of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, wildlife researchers across the nation and more than a few residents and many outdoor writers.
 For five more years he followed her movements recording much on trail camera in what has been called a love affair between Ford and that lone wolverine; a shadowy ghostly predator of Michigan's past, the first wolverine to be documented in Michigan in over 100 years.
Former Flint Journal reporter Elizabeth Shaw teamed up with Ford  to share this wildlife mystery and record the story that is now a book published by the University of Michigan Press; 
The Lone Wolverine: Tracking Michigan's Most Elusive Animal

Shaw paints a vivid written picture that accompanies Fords unprecedented visual account that together transports readers to "an endless place of flat farm fields and narrow woodlots, where every scattered, solitary farmhouse and silo rears up from the land like the lonely hand of drowning man thrust from a waveless sea Shaw does more than just write of the natural history of this powerful, tenacious hunter and the events from the first sighting to its death in March of 2010; she documented human reports from the thoughtful and factual to the humorously bizarre, including this strange "eyewitness account" perhaps created by a local resident with a very over active imagination.

"Wolverine conspiracies abounded, complete with tales of ominous
military types obscuring evidence like some wildlife version of aliens
inside Area 51. One of the most bizarre accounts was from a Mayville
woman who wrote to confide that just a few years ago her cousin’s
daughter had encountered a “scary-looking animal” lurking in a ditch
as she waited for a school bus and had later positively identified it as a
wolverine. Her cousin reported it to the DNR, she said, but was ignored.
It was only after several more eyewitness reports of wolverines
terrifying local children, she said, that the DNR swept in with the National
Guard and loaded an entire pack of wolverines onto a helicopter,
whisking them away to some remote location in extreme northern
Michigan. Cousin Roy, she said, had been threatened by the authorities
to never tell his story to anyone."
The Lone Wolverine, available for purchase on line ( Barnes and Noble retail outlets soon), is a tale rich with raw facts and natural history and is sure to be treasured as one of Michigan's most intriguing wildlife stories. Shaw does an excellent job of setting this true adventure story of American wildlife lore into the greater context of Michigan's natural history, a tribute to her journalistic and outdoor observation skills.

Liz and I walked in the woods last week and  we talked of her book and the world of nature. 
I quickly realized three things.
1. She too has a love affair with this elusive apex predator.

2.  This book is destined to be a classic, for it factually documents the tracking  and life of Michigan's most elusive animal as it struggled for food and survival in a landscape that is no longer truly wild. 

3. The Lone Wolverine is a great gift for anyone that loves wildlife  and nature's way!

For a look at the actual wolverine visit the Bay City State Recreation Area. An interpretive display has been created around the mounted remains of the lone wolverine of Michigan. 
Or is it? 

 click here to see the book on Amazon.


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