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E-M:/ wolverines in Michigan

Enviro-Mich message from Tom & Anne Woiwode <woiwode@voyager.net>

Folks:  while some might consider the University of Michigan not entirely
trustworthy as a source of information, I checked to see what they say about
wolverines in Michigan -- here is from the official website.  I might note
that there have never been any "verified trapping" or "skeletal remains" of
actual Spartans in Michigan either.  AW

    History of the Wolverine Mascot at UM

Since the earliest days of recorded University of Michigan history (as early
as 1861), the students and alumni have been referring to themselves as
"Wolverines". While this moniker has proven successful for over a hundred
years of intercollegiate sports, what is the reason for it? And moreover,
what exactly is a wolverine?

The most obvious reason for the wolverine nickname would be that the animal
was abundant in Michigan. However, all evidence points to the contrary, as
there has never been a verified trapping of a wolverine inside the state's
borders, nor have skeletal remains of a wolverine been found in the 96,705
square miles that comprise Michigan.

The truth is that there is no known reason for why the Wolverine was chosen
as a nickname. However, there are several theories.

Some believe that Ohioans started calling Michigan the "The Wolverine State"
around 1835 during a dispute over the Toledo strip, a piece of land along
the borders of the two states. Rumors in Ohio at the time described
Michiganders as being "as vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines." This
dispute became known as the Toledo War.

Others believe that the nickname comes from a story during the 1830s where
Native Americans compared Michigan settlers to wolverines. According to this
story, some native people "disliked the way settlers were taking the land
because it made them think of how the gluttonous wolverine went after its

The great Michigan football coach Fielding H. Yost had a theory for the
nickname, which he wrote about in the Michigan Quarterly in 1944. Yost felt
the reason for the nickname concerned the trading of wolverine pelts which
occurred in Sault St. Marie for many years. The trading station served as an
exchange between the Indians and other trappers and fur traders, who would
eventually ship the products off to the eastern United States. Because many
of the furs were in fact wolverine pelts, traders may have referred to them
as "Michigan wolverines", leading to the state nickname and ultimately to
the University of Michigan representation.

Eight years later in the Michigan Quarterly Review of 1952, Albert H.
Marckwardt presented another theory for the "wolverine" name. Marckwardt's
theory relates back to the time when Michigan was first settled by the
French in the late 1700s. The appetites of the French who made up a sizable
portion of the settlers was judged to be gluttonous or "wolverine-like" and
therefore, the title wolverines was set upon them.

While wild wolverines exist in Oregon, Montana, Washington, Colorado,
Wyoming, California, and parts of Canada, there are no wild wolverines in
Michigan. The only wolverines in Michigan can be found on the fields, courts
and rinks of Ann Arbor.

Despite the wolverine's ferocity, Fielding Yost set out to find one in 1923,
upon seeing Wisconsin carrying live badgers along with its football team.
Yost's desire met with difficulty, as the coach had problems finding a
dealer in live wolverines. After a letter to 68 trappers yielded no mascot
for his team. Yost expanded his wish to any wolverine, alive or dead. Yost
finally got word of a mounted wolverine belonging to Michigan Senator,
William Alden Smith, and made a deal to secure the wolverine for his team.
However, Yost went to Smith's home only to find that the specimen was
actually a coyote. 

Yost was able to obtain a mounted wolverine from the Hudson Bay Fur Company
in the fall of 1924, but his quest for a live one continued. In 1927, ten
wolverines were obtained from Alaska and placed in the Detroit Zoo. On big
football days, two of these wolverines were brought to Michigan Stadium and
carried around in cages.

However, the animals grew larger and more ferocious, and according to Yost,
" It was obvious that the Michigan mascots had designs on the Michigan men
toting them, and those designs were by no means friendly." Therefore the
practice of bringing wolverines into the stadium was discontinued after only
one year. However, one of the wolverines was not returned to the zoo.
Instead "Biff" was put in a cage at the University of Michigan Zoo where
students were able to visit him. In 1937, the Chevrolet Motor Company
donated a wolverine (as well as a cage to keep it in), to the University of
Michigan. It was unclear how long this wolverine lasted, but it is known
that no live wolverines have been in the stadium in the last half century.

For more information about the Wolverine please visit the Wolverine

This information is from the Football Press Release Guide and the
www.50states.com web site

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page updated 6/12/01

Tom, Anne, Nate and Pete Woiwode
5088 Powell Road
Okemos, MI 48864

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