LANSING, Mich. — For more than two-hundred years, the last known sighting of a wolverine in Michigan was commonly believed to be by fur traders around the turn of the 18th century. That all changed on February 24, 2004.
On that day, two coyote hunters, Ryan and Aaron Schenk, spotted a female wolverine in Huron County. For six years she graced the local area with her presence, living primarily in the Minden City State Game Area in Sanilac County until being found deceased in March 2010.
Forever preserved by Bay Port taxidermist Sandy Brown, the wolverine has been on permanent display at the Bay City State Recreation Area.
“I’m pleased to announce that we’re bringing her back to the Thumb for a final farewell,” announced Sen. Mike Green, R- Mayville, on Tuesday. “It has been in the works for more than a year, but finally she will arrive at Sandusky on June 4 as part of a new traveling exhibit.”
The exhibit will be unveiled at an opening ceremony on Monday, June 4th at 1 p.m. on the second floor of the Sanilac County Courthouse, 60 W. Sanilac Ave., Sandusky. The public will be able to view the display during the courthouse’s normal business hours until June 18, when she will be moved to Huron County for the second leg of her tour.
Local science teacher Jeff Ford will participate in the ceremony. He and freelance journalist Elizabeth Shaw recently released their book, The Lone Wolverine, which highlights his efforts to document, photograph and film the mysterious creature during her life in the Thumb.
“It’s a fitting tribute to have the wolverine come back to where she called home for at least six years of her life,” said Ford. “The fact that she was able to live in relative secrecy all those years shows what an elusive mammal she was and is a testament to the extraordinarily bountiful and secure habitat the Minden Bog provided.”
Green explained that the idea for the traveling exhibit started with a phone call from Huron County Commissioner Clark Elftman in early 2011.
“Clark asked me if it would be possible for the display to travel to the area since that is where the wolverine was discovered and had lived,” explained Green. “I put in a request with the Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes to do just that and he graciously agreed.”
Sanilac County Drain Commissioner Greg Alexander got the ball rolling in Sandusky, putting Green’s office in touch with Ford and working with Administrator Kathy Dorman to obtain approval for the display from the county board.
“This is a great opportunity for kids and adults alike to get an up-close idea of the physical size and strength of this animal, which represents our state’s longstanding identity,” said Alexander. “It’s something they just can’t experience through textbooks.”
Dorman commented that the exhibit will arrive just in time for a regional conference of counties being hosted in Sandusky in June.
“We’ll proudly show her off to county leaders from around the state,” she said.
The project took several months to complete because the permanent display in Bay City was not suitable for protecting the wolverine mount from damage during travel. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel have designed and constructed a custom mobile case and exhibit just for the tour. A digital presentation produced by Ford will also be playing adjacent to the exhibit and include actual video and photographs of the wolverine in the wild.
“We have enjoyed assembling the work of so many others to tell the story of the Thumb wolverine, and the science and history associated with this unusual species,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center. “We hope visitors will leave curious to learn more about the wolverine and proud of the people and natural resources that made this story possible.”
The display is a perfect field trip opportunity for youth groups, families, or schools still in session to develop children’s interest in Michigan’s natural resources and wildlife. Sportsmen may also enjoy getting a glimpse of a predator that once roamed the state.
“Many thanks to Commissioner Elftman, Sandra Clark and all the DNR staff as well as Jeff Ford, Greg Alexander, Kathy Dorman and the entire Sanilac Board who all made this a reality,” said Green. “It’s exciting, and I hope folks will all take time to see this rare Michigan icon from the Thumb.”
More information is available from Sen. Green’s office by calling (866) 305-2131. on Senator Mike Green.