It began in late winter of 2004. Almost 100 years had passed since the last spotting of a wild wolverine in Michigan when coyote hunters caught a glimpse of one of the animals in a frozen farm field in the northern thumb region. For the next six years, Jeff Ford, a local science teacher and amateur naturalist, devoted himself to locating and filming the wolverine that had unexpectedly and inexplicably appeared in the Wolverine State. By the time hikers found the animal dead in early 2010, Ford had taken hundreds of rare live action photos and shot numerous hours of video, with the story of the "Wolverine Guy" attracting national attention through countless newspaper and magazine articles and appearances on Animal Planet and PBS Nature.
This is the tale of Ford's quest as he uncovered answers to mysteries surrounding the animal's territory and movement patterns, while sparking a flurry of controversy surrounding the elusive predator's origin, much of which remains unresolved today. It's an intimate look at research in the raw, from DNA samples stuck on barbed wire to a sophisticated, motion-sensing infrared camera unit strategically placed to observe nocturnal behavior.
The Lone Wolverine brings to vivid life this unforgettable piece of American wildlife lore, using candid interviews, public records, and Ford's own vast storehouse of notes, personal writings, correspondence, and images, offering an extraordinary chronicle of a wild wolverine in its natural habitat, at play and in fierce competition for food and survival. This is a wildlife detective story, recounting years of study and fierce debate as researchers pondered the riddles of Michigan's last wolverine—her origins, habits, and ultimately the cause of her untimely death.
"The Lone Wolverine sets us off on a twisting path through the Michigan woods to piece together the mystery of a phantom turned flesh. Part detective story, part love story, this moving tale brings the wolverine out of the shadows of misconception and into the deepest chambers of our hearts. Through the potent narrative of this indomitable creature who graced Ford's life, we connect with something rare, something precious, something wholly wild."
—Gianna Savoie, Filmmaker, Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom
Cover photo © Jeff Ford.
Jeff Ford is an amateur naturalist and a graduate of Central Michigan University. His writing on hunting, fishing, and backpacking has appeared in Woods-N-Water News, Bow and Arrow Hunting Magazine, Deer & Deer Hunting, and Michigan-Out-Of-Doors Magazine. He lives in Tuscola County, Michigan, with his wife, Amy, and children, Riley Jo and Clint.
Elizabeth Philips Shaw is a freelance reporter and fellow of Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism and the Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources. Her work focuses on health, environmental issues, and outdoor recreation and has appeared in the Flint Journal, in the Grand Rapids Press, and on mlive.com. She lives in Genesse County, Michigan.