NEWARK, N.J. (Reuters) - Authorities at Newark International Airport in New Jersey tranquilized a wolverine who was enroute from Norway to an Alaskan wildlife center on Wednesday after discovering the wild animal had chewed through his metal carrier.

The 40-pound (18.kg) male European Wolverine was traveling to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police. A worker noticed the animal had chewed a hole in his metal carrier as it was being carried in a transport van at about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

When the animal balked at being moved to another carrier, a Bronx Zoo veterinarian was called in to inject him with a tranquilizer and help relocate him to a more secure carrier.

"He was agitated," Pentangelo said, noting the drugs made the animal docile enough to get him into the carrier and ready for a flight that departed at 7 a.m. on Wednesday via Denver.

"He's winging his way to Alaska - I don't know if it's a movie flight," Pentangelo said.

Wolverines are large members of the weasel family, native to isolated Arctic and alpine areas such as Alaska and Scandinavia. In winter, they primarily scavenge on dead animals, Defenders of Wildlife, an advocacy group, said on its website.

Their reputation for ferocity and strength inspired the fictional superhero "Wolverine" of the X-Men comic book and movie series.

The wolverine used its powerful jaws to tear through the metal carrier, but never actually left the enclosure, Pentangelo said. He described the animal as "dark brown, a European wolverine. Very continental."

A spokesman for the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which on its website says it takes in injured and orphaned animals that cannot be released into the wild, did not immediately respond to questions about the wolverine's future.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Frank McGurty and Sandra Maler)