The Nature of Things hunts for the elusive wolverine

Back in 2010, Andrew Manske saw something strange. The wildlife cinematographer was using motion capture equipment to photograph wolves, moose and other elusive animals in western Alberta. But what he took pictures of surprised and intrigued him: wolverines.

That discovery lead Manske on a five-year search to see a wolverine with his own eyes and study the beast, documented in Thursday’s episode of The Nature of Things, “Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest.” I’ve always enjoyed The Nature of Things‘ focus on wildlife, and this is no exception. Manske’s dedication is filmed as he spends weeks hidden in a blind in winter, fingers crossed the nervous beasts will scamper in his direction. Countless bottles of urine later—he stayed put so as not to scare off the wolverines—Manske is rewarded by sighting a trio of the scavengers.

So little is known about wolverines that their population status is “unknown” in Alberta. That’s changing thanks to people like Dr. Mark Boyce and Matt Scrafford at the University of Alberta, who use live traps and GPS tagging to not only learn more about wolverine habits, but dispel some myths along the way. Far from being the loners long assumed, wolverines are a social lot. They’re also lithe and agile climbers; Manske’s stunning footage captures the shaggy animals moving gracefully in the snow, stopping to sniff the air or to rear up on hind legs to look around, their fur boasting subtle stripes and stubby tails.

Manske’s ultimate goal is to find a wolverine den and film a mother interacting with her kids. Stay tuned until the end of “Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest” for that amazing scene.

The Nature of Things airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.