The land of the wolverine | by Sam Puls

Summer in northern Lapland, time to volunteering at another conservation project. This time I was joining the Swedish Arctic Fox Project. With long days, only a few hours of total darkness each night, and a full schedule, we started our journey throughout the vast tundra of northern Sweden in search for arctic fox dens. It will be the 4th day of this trip that I will remember the most.

We were about to give up for the day, but we pushed ourselves one last time to make it to our next designated GPS point. Our heavy backpack had drained our energy level to an all-time minimum. Suddenly, I saw something running in the distance. Blood was pumping and my heart was pounding out of my chest, not knowing it was the exhaustion or the appearance of this unknown animal. It was a dark-brown creature, hopping through the landscape. This must be it, one of the animals I could only hope for. I took my binoculars and shouted ‘Wolverine’! I dropped my heavy backpack and tried to lower my heartbeat in an effort to get a less shaky visual. Amazing sighting!

Off course, there was a little pile of rocks in the landscape, and the wolverine soon disappeared behind it. A combination of happiness, tiredness and frustration crossed my mind. The wolverine was heading to a river. I couldn’t give up now and started running to get another view of this magnificent creature.

These 20-30 extra meters seemed like forever, but once I reached it, the sighting was unbelievable. I saw the wolverine swimming across the river. While I was enjoying it to the fullest, I was arguing with myself: Would I be able to see it getting on land on the other side of the river? Should I run another 10-20m to make sure these rocks will not block my view a second time? It seems like silly questions now, but at that point the energy level was fluctuating that much it was a tough decision. In a split second I decided to move further, only to realise after a couple of steps more I should stop and enjoy the moment. In the meanwhile, the wolverine was crossing this rapidly flowing river.

I sat down, stabilized my binoculars, and followed this wolverine’s struggle to cross the river. Finally, it made it. I never felt more alive as this moment. The wolverine got out of the water, did a little shake to get the water off, and continued on its way in this marten-looking trotting. After a couple of trots, it disappeared behind a bolder to never be seen again.

I looked at my colleague, we couldn’t believe this happened, just lost for words. The silence broke: “Sorry man, I couldn’t follow all your running around anymore, too exhausted, but I had a great observation!”. At least for a moment, we forgot about how tired we were and this gave us a little boost to set up our tent for the night. It’s these (unexpected) wildlife sightings which can give you the energy to continue follow your passion into the wild.

About the Entry

Sam Puls

Sam Puls – Belgian, biologist. Sam likes to spend his free time and holidays in nature. He studied biology and participated in volunteer projects across the globe. Some of his main interests: big cats, (carnivores), the interaction between wildlife and humans, and how ecotourism can contribute to conservation.

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