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What Do Wolves Eat?

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Just to disillusion any legends or preconceptions, wolves don’t eat humans and only very rarely do they attack us. The bad reputation that wolves have received was probably sparked because of their howl. A wolf’s howl is spine tingling and can induce terror when heard in the wild. In fact, wolves are semi-social but are large dogs which may hunt in packs but often hunt alone or in pairs. The social group is always family-based, with the breeding pair being the center and dominating the pack’s activities.

The Gray Wolf and the Arctic WolfThe gray wolf, native to North America, and the Arctic wolf.

Elks, moose and caribou

Wolves mostly hunt hooved creatures. Elks, moose and caribou are common prey in the wild of North America, where they have now been re-introduced after being made virtually extinct. The south east of the US once had packs of red wolves, but recently had none left in the wild, as the territory and therefore their wild prey, had been eliminated. A breeding program has reintroduced them but their numbers remain low and endangered.

How wolves hunt their prey?

Wolves are known to hunt in a pack of six to ten and will attack prey animals much larger than themselves. Their method of attack may involve splitting a herd up and then going for a single or a couple of isolated, weaker animals. They will run up behind the prey animal and bite a big chunk out of the area on the hind thigh or beneath the tail, which will induce massive blood loss. As this exsanguination weakens the animal rapidly, the wolves will wait until it dies or rip its throat out once it is too weak to fight back with its antlers.

Who gets to eat first?

The pack will then allow the breeding pair to eat first. Once they are done, the rest of the pack will come and tear off chunks and go and eat a little way off. A grown wolf will eat up to 20 pounds of meat if it can. The strange thing is that a larger pack usually will mean that each wolf will get less meat. For this reason, a wolf cub usually leaves the pack after 2 years or so and goes off to found its own breeding pair. In times of scarcity, wolves are known to eat lizards, bird and smaller mammals, fish and even fruits.

More on wolves: Facts about wolves.