Michigan is nicknamed “The Wolverine State”, so it came as a bit of a shock to me to hear today that our only known wolverine has been found dead.
Wait a second. Did that say, “Michigan’s only known wolverine”? We only had one? Why on earth did we get that nickname then?
Well, one story says that the name was given to us by our neighbors to the South, those Ohio types. Around 1835 there was a little border dispute that became known as “The Toledo War”, and the Ohioans allegedly said that Michiganians were as vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines.
There’s another story that says the name goes back to the native Americans who, in the 1830’s, likened the early American settlers in the Michigan territory to wolverines, due to their gluttonous land-grabbing. Of course, this suggests the natives already knew about wolverines and their known propensity for going after food.
Either story is plausible, though I daresay the University of Michigan named their mascot & sports teams based on the first one, rather than the second. Being a fierce fighter is more apropriate for a football team than being a glutton.