A trio of male wolverine kits are this year’s first animal births at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, where keepers and visitors have been watching the brothers grow and play.
The kits were born in early February. Their parents are Jumbo and Olga, transferred to Alaska from zoos in Sweden and Russia.
The zoo formally announced the birth of the still-unnamed kits on Thursday on social media. Zoo director Pat Lampi said the zoo wanted to wait for the newborns to grow and get acclimatized. He said they’ve been getting a great reception from visitors, especially in recent weeks.
“People have really enjoyed them,” he said. “They were born over a month ago, but you didn’t see them out.”
Zookeeper Taleah Goodwin has been working with the kits. She said wolverines are highly adaptive animals well-suited to Alaska, and share a playful demeanor with relatives like mink and ferrets.
“They’re very smart. They’re very intuitive, and so they’re awesome to work with,” she said. “I love them.”
Wolverines are omnivorous scavengers, so their diet at the zoo has included everything from chicken and red meat to fruits and vegetables.
Lampi said they’re also beginning to develop individual personalities.
“One of the keepers had a great video when the baby kind of came right up to the fence, and was growling and snarling and acting like he was a real tough guy,” Lampi said.
This year’s litter is the second successfully born at the zoo in two years. Olga delivered a male and a female kit in 2022. Lampi credits the consecutive births to the zoo’s husbandry staff, who created breeding and denning spaces in the wolverine enclosure through a process of trial and error.
“Not every place has success, and we tried for several years without any success,” Lampi said. “But then it finally happened – nature finds a way.”
Wolverines reside in the wild throughout Alaska.
But the kits at the zoo likely won’t stay here for too long. Lampi said expects they’ll be transferred to other zoos in need of wolverines once they mature, with weaning at 10 weeks of age and independence from their mother at six months. Wolverines are considered adults by their first winter.
It’s not yet known where the kits will go. According to Lampi, zoos in North America and Europe maintain a species survival plan for reintroducing captive wolverines to the wild, with zoos in need requesting animals from successful breedings. Several other factors also have to be considered, he said, ranging from health certificates for the animals to tarmac temperatures during transfer flights.
“There’s a period of time in the summer, if they’re going long distances or through very high-temperature areas, that animals cannot be transported,” he said. “So it’s all about the safety and concern for the health of the animals.”
The best chance for visitors to see the kits in the wolverine exhibit is in the morning hours just after opening, when zoo traffic is calmer. The zoo’s current hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., expanding to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting May 1.
Alaska Public Media’s Matt Faubion contributed to this story.