They are vicious and wild and can cause an injury, but they might be useful in SAR operations to help find missing avalanche victims.
The wolverine is one of the most powerful, thievish, daring, and efficient killing machines known to man,” writes Mark Allardyce in Wolverine: A Look into the Devil’s Eyes.
The creature’s English name derives from the word wolver, or “wolf-like.” Its scientific label, Gulo gulo, comes from the Latin for “glutton.”
It has been known to eat its victims—which include everything from deer and sheep to full-grown caribou—bones, teeth, and all. The animal has been called the hyena of the north. When you type “Can a wolverine” into Google, the search engine offers “kill a polar bear?”
It’s no surprise, then, that Mike Miller’s proposal to train wolverines to search for—and help rescue—avalanche survivors has raised some eyebrows around his corner of Alaska, near Anchorage.
“New ideas normally do sound ridiculous,” Miller says from his office at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, about an hour south of Anchorage in a valley popular with backcountry adventurers.
The organisation, which Miller founded two decades ago, houses hundreds of displaced or orphaned animals and has worked on big projects like reintroducing the Wood Bison to the Alaskan wilderness and repatriating condors from the San Diego Zoo. But what’s got Miller excited these days is training and breeding Kayla and Kasper, the two wolverines he’s recently acquired.
“Anything you can train a dog to do, you can train a wolverine to do, five times quicker,” Miller says.
Right now, avalanche search and rescue or recovery is carried out by dogs—usually shepherds or retrievers—who walk the avalanche site with trainers, hectare by hectare, hunting for the scent of buried humans. Wolverines, Miller says, were born to do this; smelling a creature 20 feet below the snow is instinctive for them.
They’re known to run along avalanche lines searching for dinner among the animals buried deep in the slide. The squat, bear-like member of the weasel family is famed for powering up difficult terrain that would require professional climbing equipment for humans. To read more click here.
The 2016 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference (ANZSAR); Land, Sea & Air will be held at the Jupiters Hotel, Gold Coast on the 1 June 2016.
CLICK HERE to view the Conference Program with an impressive line up of keynote speakers and targeted forums it makes this the premier conference to attend in the Oceania region.
To register for the conference CLICK HERE. Early bird registrations close on Monday 18th April so be quick to receive a discounted rate.
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