What do Wolves Eat : 7 Facts

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what do wolves eat
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Gray wolves (scientific name: Canis Lupus) or timberwolves have long bushy tails and are black-tipped. What do wolves eat– wolves are carnivores and sometimes herbivores to fulfill the herbivorous part of their diet.

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Photo by patrice schoefolt from Pexels

They are large mammals. Wolves are the ancestors of all domesticated dogs we see today, starting from bulldogs to Siberian Husky. They are primarily found in Russia, China, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, and Mongolia. However, some wolves are highly endangered, like Mexican Wolf and Red Wolf.

Description Of Gray Wolves

The coat color of wolves varies with the habitat they live in. It can be gray and brown with buffy facial markings, and sometimes it can be brown or black.

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Photo by Natalia García Prieto from Pexels

The Gray wolf looks like a German Shepherd. They also vary in size depending on where they live in. The red wolf, found in the South-Eastern United States, measures about 130-160 cm smaller than grey wolves. Adult wolves found in the north usually have three to five feet long body and their tails are about one to two feet long. Female wolves have an average weight of 60 to 100 pounds, and the bodyweight of the male gray wolf is around 70 to 145 pounds.

About Wolf Pack And How Wolves Hunt

  •  Speed And Range

The speed of wolves ranges from 8 kmph to 64 kmph. Wolves find their prey within a territory of 129 square kilometers to 2590 square kilometers area.

  • Distribution Of Territory

It is believed that wolves howl at the moon, but it’s not true. The wolves howl to warn other wolf packs to stay away from their prey and territory.

Wolves always move in a pack. The usual pack members consist of five to six. Occasionally it increases to 30 pack members until some wild wolves break off and find new territory or form a new pack.

The young adults are not allowed to join the pack until they are three and ready to hunt. Once they reach the age of three, they can join the pack with other members or find their territory. In some cases, wolves travel hundred of miles to find a new territory.

  • Wolf Pups

There is an alpha male and an alpha female in a pack dominating the entire hierarchy. The ones that breed are alpha pairs.

In the northern United States, the breeding season of wolves is in late January all long through March. Wolves stay pregnant for around 63 days and give birth to four to six pups.


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Photo by Gylfi Gylfason from Pexels

The wolf pups are born in a den and cannot hear or see when they are born. They weigh about one pound. Adult pack members bring meat for their pups in the den.

The mother wolf moves their pups to a new den every couple of months until the pack stops leaving around the den. The lifespan of wild wolves is 8 to 13 years, whereas, in captivity, they might live for 15 years.

  • Communication Of Wolves

The communication of wolves is exciting and unique. Body language, scent marking, barking, growling, and howling are the ways by which wolves communicate. The topic of discussion among them is reinforcing the social hierarchy of the pack.

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Photo by Yannick Menard on Unsplash

To show obedience to another wolf, it will crouch, whimper tucks its tail, lick the other wolf’s mouth, or roll over its back.

If one wolf wants to challenge another wolf, it will lay its ears back on its head or growl. Barking is used as a warning for other wolves, and a howl is used to fall back the pack together.

What Do Wolves Eat

Have you ever wondered what wolves eat and do they target their prey? Generally, the wolf eats large hoofed mammals, such as bison, mountain goats, deer, moose elk, and moose. They also hunt small animals like beavers, snowshoe hare, and other rodents.

What do wolves eat? The wolves generally target younger and smaller prey in summer. In autumn, they look for salmon for nutrients. In spring, wolves eat small mammals, and sometimes the choices revert to large mammals. During winter, wolves eat more young deer.

  • Wolf Diet

Wolves are generally carnivores, but sometimes wolves eat grass to fulfill the herbivorous part of their diet. However, it is not clear what vegetables they eat. Wolf’s diet contains 60% meat, and the remaining 40% of their diet consists of plant-based material.

Wolves have survived over thousands of years and thus have adopted the ability to accommodate different conditions, like seasons, environments, and, most importantly, food availability.

  • Wolf Diet In Winter

This season is a very uncertain season for wolves. It can be either favorable and unfavorable for wolves as their diet depends on snowfall. The primary prey for wolves in this season is the snowshoe hare.

It becomes challenging for wolves to hunt whitetail deer during slow snowfall, but in heavy snowfalls with deep and crusted snow, deer becomes vulnerable, which is an excellent chance for other wolves to hunt down their prey.

Wolves need two and a half pounds of food every day. To reproduce offspring, a female needs about seven pounds of flesh. However, in winter, the wolves have adapted themselves to survive for days without food. They live a feast or famine lifestyle. They stay without food for days, and when one prey is hunted down, they eat over 20 pounds of meat.

  • Wolf Diet In Spring

Grey wolves hunt large animals this season, especially hoofed animals like caribou, musk oxygen, deer, and moose. Sometimes beavers also become their prey.

The proof that wolves are carnivores comes in this season. Since it is the mating season, they put on weight to prepare for reproduction. The wolf’s diet contains 25-75% of beavers, fruits, vegetables, and other plats if they feel they are needed. The wolf’s diet may also include smaller mammals like mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, birds, snakes, snowshoe hares, and even insects.

In some cases, wolves also do eat fishes, depending on the habitat they are living in.

  • Wolf Diet In Summer Season

This season is the hunting season for wolves. This season gives plenty of choices to wolves to hunt their prey since most pups and young prey grow to adulthood by summer.

The count of beavers drops down from the wolf’s diet, and large ungulates make most of their diet in the summer season. A wolf eats meat about 15 to 19 adult-sized whitetails in a year. Moreover, in the U.S, in a year, on average, 45,000- 57,000 deers are killed.

  • Wolves Diet In Fall

In the winter season, wolves depend on stacked food and prepare themselves to stay low. In this season, their diet consists mainly of fish and salmon. Since their way of hunting is aggressive, that often leads them to injuries. In Fall, with the scarcity of food, the healing process becomes slow and can lead to the wolf’s death.

In the autumn season, wolves opt for fishing or salmon. By fishing or finding salmon, they save their energy, put on extra weight with the help of salmon to survive winter.

The seasons and the diet patterns that wolves pack member follow show how vital hunting is for a wolf’s diet.

How Do Wolves Hunt Their Food

A wolf never hunts prey alone for large animals like bison, deer, and even wild boar. They find their prey in a group with strategies. However, wolves could hunt all by themselves if they had to, only small prey, like moose elk.

The hunting strategies for wolves differ from one prey to another prey. It depends on whether their prey will give a counter-attack or will sacrifice. Wolves leave the carcass of the animals they did hunt.

They respond to signals like howl or bark. Either they turn to chase their prey or chase into an ambush. While attacking hoofed animals like wild boar, deer attack from behind and a distance is maintained to avoid any injuries caused by the hooves. Although while hunting only small animals like moose, elk, and other animals without hooves, they happily attack from the front. Since there is no chance of getting injured, often they hunt them down alone.

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Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash

Wolves start eating the prey from the bitten area. They tear the flesh from the bitten area.  No wolves are allowed to eat before the alpha male and alpha female wolves. Once they have their turn, other wolves can eat the leftovers.

The deep bites of wolves are more powerful, the teeth marks will be longer and broader, and wounds will be broader. This differentiates attacks on wolves and dogs.

Often wolves eat protein-rich organs first, followed by ribs and the stomach lining out of healthy animals like moose elk, healthy deer. In some cases, pieces of bones and muscles are partially consumed. The leftover is either eaten up by birds or left to rot.

Wolf Diet Contains Fruits And Vegetables

It is precisely not clear what vegetable wolves eat. But wolves do chew grass after eating something to help cope up with their digestive system. 

Wolves face gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, bloating, and illness from pathogenic microbes. To clear all these issues wolfs eat grass. The grass works for gastrointestinal problems and helps wolves to overcome their problems.

Wolves also enjoy eating fruits like blueberries, cowberries, apples, and pears.

  • Vitamins And Nutrients In A Wolf Diet

A wolf eats mainly the organs of prey like kidneys, liver, heart, and lungs, high in Vitamin A, Vitamin B, minerals, and fatty acids. These are required for maintenance and growth.

The percentage contribution of nutrients in a wolf diet is

  • Protein: 49%
  • Fat: 44%
  • Carbohydrates: 6%

How Much Do Wolves Eat Per Day

Often wolves eat around five to twelve pounds of food per day. Some studies also say that many wolves around fourteen pounds of moose per day during winter to gain weight.

However, they don’t eat meat every day. Mostly they eat regurgitated food, depending on the availability of food. Other affiliate programs also said that wolves often maintain a gap of twelve to fourteen days for their following meals.

If they kill a huge animal, they stay with the carcass for many days, filling themselves until they feel bloated.

Do Wolves Cache Their Prey?

Yes, wolves and even other animals cache their prey from a distance. The distance can be even half a mile away.

Caching is very much popular in northern and Arctic territories. The prey is stored underground, using their front feet to dig up the meat. Once the meat is inside, to replace the dirt, they use their nose.

This process is highly used in between mammals. Scientific research says that this is to keep the food for later times. It is also believed that caching is done to distract them from their killing memories, which can be stressful for them.

How Much Water Do Wolves Drink?

The water requirement of wolves is between a quarter to three-quarters of a gallon of water per day. The amount of water intake also depends on the climate they are in, the size of the animal they recently ate, and the moisture content of their food.

Wolf can also extract moisture from other food sources. Such as apples, pears, insects, earthworms, blueberries, and raspberries.

In a study in Alaska, a small percentage was shown for feeding

  • Feeding: 9.8%
  • Sleeping or resting: 48.8%
  • Walking or running: 34.6%
  • Social behavior: 6.8%

Requirements For Wolves To Survive

The foods that wolves eat are high in protein and fat, but they are low in carbohydrates with a ratio of 54:45:1. They don’t get all the nutritional requirements from one meal, but they gain it over time. They go in search of certain nutrients if their body is asking.

Wolves get fatty acids, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, enzymes, and other protein sources from feces and carrion they eat. The feces and carrion contain billions of living and dead bacteria. Wolves may even eat domesticated farm animals and even garbage. 

Difference Between Wolves And Dogs On Basis Of Their Diet

Wolves and dogs are almost similar. Wolves are the ancestors of dogs, but dogs differ from wolves in their diet and sign of attacks.

Both the species seem to have a diet filled with proteins and fats. But dogs are eager for fat, whereas wolves look for protein. Dogs can fast for more than a hundred days, but wolves can fast only for two weeks or less.

Dogs can digest starch more effectively than wolves. On giving uncontrolled meals to dogs, they gain fat, but wolves eat, controlling the food ratio. They maintain all the essentials required for the body.

Siberian Husky is a species of dog that is identical to wolves. A wolf’s attack is more powerful than a dog’s. Their wounds are deep, and marks are longer and wider. They maintain a rule for letting the alpha hierarchy complete their meal first, and then the rest will eat. But dogs fight in between them to get their part of the food.

These are some rare species of wolves, and their details like habitat, diet, rarity are listed below.

1. Mexican Wolf

Scientific names of these wolves are (Canis lupus baileyi). They are also known as Lobo and are subspecies of gray wolves found in Arizona and Southern New Mexico.

They are the rarest subspecies left in North America. It is an endangered species, and only 15 or fewer species are left in the wildlife today.

They run at speeds ranging from 36 to 38 miles per hour. The Mexican wolves eat wild animals like elk, muke deer, white-tailed deer. They eat the stacked food mainly and stays inside dens to survive the extreme winter. They hunt all summer like other species and go back to the den, waiting for the winter to pass.

2. Red Wolf

The scientific name of this species is Canis Lupus Rufus. They are found in southeastern sides of the U.S. This species is closely related to the eastern wolf found in eastern Canada ( Canis Lupus Lycaon).

They travel in a 20 miles square kilometer area in search of food.

The life span of these wolves is less as compared to gray wolves. They live for seven to eight years, and in captivity, they live for around 15 years.

According to wildlife service programs, less than 35 red wolves of these species are left in wildlife.

Red wolves are carnivores and usually prey on rabbits, raccoons, moose, rodents and rarely kill sheep and other animals. They depend on killing small mammals, and sometimes in scarcity, they even eat insects.

Conservation Of Wolves

Wolves were found in large packs in the early ’90s. By the late ’90s, most species became rare and are now endangered. Wildlife Supporters are trying hard to save this species.

The territory of wolves was widespread across most of North America. Later, they were ruthlessly hunted, commercially exploited, and after solid conservation and referring traffic, both wolves species are making a strong comeback in some of their habitats.

Programs like Mexican Wolf Conservation Program have come up for saving these wolves. They are supporting every wild Mexican Wolf in the United States. Give a helping hand to save this rare species and encourage others to save this endangered wildlife species and protect the wildlife cycle.


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