Even for the Arctic's most cunning carnivores, surviving harsh winters often means taking down risky prey. This fight between a wolverine and reindeer was caught on film in northern Norway – and it's one of the most dramatic we've seen.

Wolverines aren't the indiscriminate killing machines they're made out to be, but they're certainly among the fiercest mammals in the animal kingdom. The opportunistic hunters typically feed on carrion, as well as smaller prey like rabbits and rodents – but as you can see here, they're willing to risk their lives against more formidable adversaries when food is scarce. 

The footage was shot by Nikolai Hagensen Eide who was travelling to a cabin in Inner Troms, near the Swedish border. Many commenters have asked why Eide stopped filming after a few minutes, and he explains that while he did watch the entire battle unfold, he wasn't able to record its conclusion. 

"We were lucky and were in the right place at the right time," he wrote on YouTube. "But I left my DSLR camera at home. It was filmed with an iPhone SE. The clip ended because the phone ran out of storage."

According to Eide, the reindeer managed to throw the wolverine six separate times, sustaining severe injuries to the face and neck in the process. Eventually, the fight proved too much for the attacker, who moved off into the surrounding bush. Despite this, Eide suspects the buck's injuries were fatal, so it's possible that the wolverine simply moved off to wait for its hard-earned meal to fall.

"The deer came storming by the huts where we were staying, bloody and injured," Eide told local news outlet NRK [translated from Norwegian]. "But the wolverine needs food too, just like any other animal. If we had helped this already hurt reindeer, the wolverine would have had to attack another one. Such is nature."

While other reports of such impressive predations exist, actually catching one on video is rare. Hikers in Alaska witnessed a wolverine caching a caribou kill back in 2013, but that animal was a calf:

In Finland, where the large weasels have been protected since 1982, a perceived rise in wolverine-reindeer conflict has sparked recent plans for a controversial wolverine cull. It's thought that around 250 of the animals inhabit the country, and the number isn't much higher in neighbouring Norway.

"The wolverine is relatively scarce across its circumpolar range," explains The Wolverine Foundation. High compensation costs for lost livestock have increased government interest in depredation across Scandinavia in recent years, and biologists are concerned about how wolverine populations will be affected going forward.

While Eide's footage may be difficult for some viewers to watch, predators like wolverines are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. The video is an incredible example of how hard life can be for wildlife in the snowy North.


Top header image: Jan Rose/Flickr