Wildlife filmmaker Andrew Manske’s five-year mission to track down one of the world's most elusive carnivores hit a high note with a decidedly unintimidating sound: the soft cries of a baby. A baby wolverine, that is.

The squeaks emanating from a den hidden beneath deep snow were the precursor to one seriously adorable wolverine relocation. Manske believes the amazing footage, captured as part of his new documentary Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest, is the first to show a wild wolverine with her kits.

The Canadian cinematographer set his sights on filming the mysterious animals after coming across camera trap footage of them lumbering through the forests of Alberta. What followed was a challenging quest to track down wolverines in their rugged and remote stomping grounds – and a series of long and chilly (and often fruitless) stakeouts in wildlife hides.

Although they're widespread across the Northern Hemisphere, wolverines (Gluo gulo) are among its least studied carnivores – and their mostly nocturnal habits and often inaccessible territories make them difficult for both scientists and filmmakers to find.

To help him with his tracking task, Manske reached out to experts from the The Wolverine Project – the most wide-ranging study of the animals ever carried out in North America.

“It was like Christmas morning,” Manske tells the Edmonton Journal of the excitement of capturing his very first footage.

Much like Africa's honey badgers, wolverines are fearsome creatures that punch above their weight. They might look like small bears with bushy tails, but they're actually the largest members of the weasel family – and they come armed with powerful jaws and large teeth. Although they often scavenge (rumours abound of clashes with wolves and grizzlies over carcasses), wolverines are also skilled hunters capable of taking down surprisingly large prey.

Come breeding season, females excavate dens in the snow, and each litter is typically made up of two to three white-furred kits, which are born blind and will stay with the mother for some time. Wolverine family dynamics is an area that Manske's film project helped shed new light on.

"We started learning that male wolverines might play a bigger role in raising their young," Manske tells CBC News. The "fatherly" duties caught on camera included regular visits to the den, as well as some scent-marking action at the dens to ward off other wolverines.

You can watch the trailer for Manske's documentary below (or visit his website for more about his wolverine-tracking crusade).


Top header image: The Wasp Factory, Flickr