Qavvigaarjuk — Wolverine

Qavvik or Qavvigaarjuk, the wolverine, is an almost mystical animal of the North. With only tracks as evidence of its existence, the wolverine is said to be able to vanish into thin air, perhaps with the help of shamanic powers. Wolverines have enormous physical power; they are able to bring down a caribou on the run, or lift and pry large rocks to rob a meat cache. They have often been implicated in famines among the Inuit, because of their impressive abilities to raid food stores at the expense of the people who relied on them. In fact, a legend tells how qavvigaarjuk once had a long tail, but in robbing a cache he knocked down some rocks which rolled over his tail, leaving him with only the short one he has today. Wolverines also have highly prehensile front paws, which help them to grip onto game or rocks or to jump nimbly onto the back of a caribou to bite its neck.

The wolverine is sometimes compared to the wolf. Unlike the latter species, the wolverine is solitary most of the time; brief periods for mating and raising young are the exceptions. Like wolves, wolverines give birth to their offspring as the snow is melting in the late spring. Faced with a wolverine in an argument over prey, a wolf will back down at its adversary's ferocity. Aaraarniq, a game played by Inuit children, consists of a combat between two opposing teams, the wolves and the wolverines.

The wolverine is very determined and purposeful. Inuit who have tracked a qavvigaarjuk say that it travels for miles across the tundra, following a straight line over hills and valleys towards its distant destination. It is respected for its tenacity, its ferocity, and its intelligence, which it demonstrates by avoiding any kind of trap that is set for it. Perhaps for this reason, qavvigaarjuk played a very small part in the existence of the Inuit. Its meat was eaten only in times of famine, but if one could be caught its fur was highly valued. Wolverine fur, unlike that of many other animals, does not become laden with frost crystals when it is breathed on in the winter. Even nowadays, wolverine fur is prized as a trimming for parka hoods (Randa 1994).