what do wolves eat what do wolves eat

What Do Wolves Eat: Learn 11 Interesting Facts

Timberwolves, often known as Gray Wolves (scientifically named Canis Lupus), are canines with long, bushy tails that commonly have black tips. Their coat color can range from full white to brown or black, although they usually have buffy face markings and are a blend of grey and brown.

Gray wolves resemble giant German shepherds in appearance. The size of gray wolves varies according to their habitat. Typically, northern wolves are bigger than southern ones.

A wolf’s body is about three to five feet long, while its tail is typically one to two feet long. In adult wolves, males and females generally weigh 70 to 145 pounds.

Wolves are generally carnivores. Adult wolves can eat up to 20 pounds of meat in a single meal. Wolves feed largely upon mammals like deer, elk, bison, and moose. However, they also hunt smaller mammals such as beavers, rodents, and hares.

They also intake herbivorous diet to keep a balance of nutrients and vitamins. It helps 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.  In eastern Arizona and southwest New Mexico, protected parkland has been used to restore Mexican wolves, a subspecies of the grey wolf.

Wolves can survive in a variety of settings, including deserts, tundra, woods, and forests. More than two-thirds of the United States comprised the grey wolf’s historic range. Northern Michigan,  Alaska, Western Montana, Northern Wisconsin, Northeast Oregon, Northern Idaho, and the Yellowstone region of Wyoming are currently home to populations of gray wolves.

1. Description 

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. Comparatively, the red wolves, found in the South-Eastern United States are smaller than grey wolves, as gray wolves measures about 130 to 160 cm.

Adult wolves found in the north usually have a body measuring about three to five feet long and their tails as well measure about one to two feet long. Female wolves have an average weight of 60 to 100 pounds, while the body weight of a male gray wolf goes around 70 to 145 pounds.

2. Wolf Pack 

  •  Speed And Range

Although they may travel up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour, wolves typically move at a speed of five miles (8 kilometers) per hour. The average speed of wolves ranges from 8 Kmph to 64 Kmph. The typical hunting zone for wolves is between 50 square miles (129 square kilometers) to over 1,000 square miles (2,590 square kilometers). 

  • 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 wolf pack members until some wild adult 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 hundreds of miles to find a new territory.

Wolves frequently travel great distances as they follow the migration routes of their prey since they must have greater prey to feast upon. Depending on the level of scarcity, a pack’s area can range from 50 miles to 1,000 miles, and due to their hunting tendencies, they can cover 30 miles in a day.

Gray wolves unfortunately frequently clash with people due to their hunting and eating habits.

  • Wolf Pups

There are separate male and female hierarchies within the pack. Males and females in the pack are subordinate to the alpha male. The dominant pairs in a wolf pack are known as the alpha pairs, they are usually the one who breeds. In an alpha pair, there is an alpha male and an alpha female who dominates the entire hierarchy of the pack. 

Usually, wolves mate for life. They breed in the northern United States from late January to March. For wolves living further south, the breeding season begins sooner. Wolves typically give birth to four to six pups after a 63-day gestation period.

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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, making them blind at their birth. They weigh about one pound. For about six weeks, the pups are weaned. Adult wolves hunt and bring meat for their pups in the den. The pups enjoy a substantial meal after the adult wolves vomit their meals.

The mother wolf moves their pups to a new den every couple of months until the pack stops living around the den. Once, the young adults are three years old, they have the option of staying with the pack or going off to find their own territory.

If there is a large amount of prey, the new region might be nearby. In some places, young adult wolves travel great distances in search of new lands. The lifespan of wild wolves is 8 to 13 years, whereas, in captivity, they might live for 15 years.

  • Communication 

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. A wolf bows and dances with joy. Barking serves as a warning, and howling serves as a means of long-distance communication to reunite a pack and keep outsiders at bay.

Wolves don’t howl at the moon, contrary to common perception. Wolves howl to strengthen pack ties and warn other wolf packs to keep away.

3. What Do Wolves Eat

Have you ever wondered what wolves eat and what the wolves hunt? Generally, wolves eat large hoofed mammals, such as bison, mountain goats, deer, moose elk, and moose. They also hunt small animals like beavers, snowshoe hares, and other rodents. Adult wolves can eat up to 20 pounds of meat in a single meal.

In summer, the wolves hunt and generally target younger and smaller prey. 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.

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Photo by DiePhotoPotato via Pexels

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 its diet consists of plant-based material.

The typical gray wolf can consume up to 20 pounds of meat at once, but under regular circumstances, they need to consume approximately 4 pounds of meat daily to survive.

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. Due to their enormous global distribution, and their adaptive tendency wolves have risen to the position of top predators in every ecosystem they inhabit.

  • Wolf’s winter diet

This season is a very uncertain season for wolves. It can be either favorable or 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 become vulnerable, which is an excellent chance for them as the wolves hunt down their prey cunningly.

Gray wolves eat two and a half pounds of food every day. To reproduce offspring, a female gray wolf 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.

On the contrary, winters also at times become very favorable for gray wolves as they have easier access to weak and malnourished prey throughout the winter and because they typically have an advantage over their prey when hunting through snow and tundra, grey wolves tend to have the most abundant season. 

  • Wolf’s spring diet

Grey wolves hunt large animals in 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. Wolves add prey to helpless puppies and young ones abandoned in dens to their diet.

During this time of year, wolves will also consume other plants, fruits, and vegetables if they feel the need to. The wolf’s diet may also include smaller mammals like mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, birds, snakes, snowshoe hares, and even insects.

In the spring, there are additional options available, including small and large mammals, birds, etc. In addition, beavers are a major food for wolves during this time of year, making up between 25 and 75 percent of a wolf’s diet in the spring as Beavers are active during this time of the season. 

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

  • Wolf’s Summer diet

Wolves hunt majorly at this time of the year therefore it is also called the hunting season for wolves. This season gives plenty of choices to wolves to hunt their prey since most pups and young preys grow to adulthood by summer.

Since the beaver population drops in summer, consequently the count of beavers drops down as well from the wolf’s diet. Ungulates take their place and make the most of their diet in the summer season. A wolf eats meat from 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.

  • Wolf’s fall diet

In the fall 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 which often leads them to injuries. As a result of this, in the Fall season, they try to hold back from it because of the scarcity of food, and the healing process becomes slow and can lead to the wolf’s death. 

In the autumn season, wolves opt for fishing or salmon. Given that they do not hibernate, by fishing or finding salmon, they save their energy and put on extra weight with the help of salmon to survive winter. Therefore, it’s said that wolves favor fishing over hunting in the autumn.

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

4. Wolves’ Hunting technique

A wolf never hunts prey alone of 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 and never return.

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

A basic eating technique of wolves allows Wolves to start eating the prey from the bitten area. They tear the flesh from the bitten area. No matter who hunted down the prey, no wolf is allowed to eat before the alpha male and the alpha female wolf does. Once they have their turn, other wolves can eat the leftovers, this becomes a little chaotic. At times, the other wolves are also forced to eat the bones because of the same.

The deep bites of wolves are 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, and 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.

5. Wolf’s Fruits And Vegetable diet

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

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

Similarly, wolves eat fruits like blueberries, cowberries, apples, and pears, enjoyably. 

  • Vitamins And Nutrients 

Wolves eat 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%

6. Wolves’ Daily intake

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

An average gray wolf eats up to 20 pounds in a single sitting, but they need to eat almost four pounds of meat a day to sustain themselves in normal conditions.

However, they don’t eat meat every day. Mostly they eat regurgitated food, depending on the availability of food. Other affiliate programs also show that wolves often try to 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 as well as their little ones until they feel bloated.

7. Do Wolves Cache Their Prey?

Yes, gray 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. Caching refers to the process where the prey is stored underground, using their front feet to dig up the meat whenever required. Once the meat is inside, to replace the dirt, they use their nose.

This process is highly and effectively used among mammals. Scientific research shows 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 in the long run.

8. Wolves’ Water Intake?

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.

Wolves can also extract moisture from other food sources. Such as apples, pears, insects, earthworms, nuts, 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%

9. Requirements For Wolves’ survival

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 the wolves eat. The feces and carrion contain billions of living and dead bacteria. At times, Wolves eat even domesticated farm animals and eat even garbage. 

10. Difference Between Wolves And Dogs 

Wolves and dogs are very similar, they even resemble each other. Wolves are the ancestors of dogs, but dogs differ from wolves in their diet and sign of attacks.

Both 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.

Only by carefully examining bite marks and wound sizes would one be able to differentiate between a wolf pack attack and a dog pack attack. The teeth marks, bite wounds, and depth of a wolf bite are all larger and more pronounced.

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 of 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, and rarity are listed below.

10.1. Mexican Wolf

The Mexican gray wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf, commonly referred to as “el lobo”. The scientific names of these gray wolves are (Canis lupus baileyi). They are commonly found in Arizona and Southern New Mexico.

Despite having formerly numbered in the thousands, Mexican wolves were extinct in the United States by the middle of the 1970s, with only a few numbers remaining in zoos. Despite poor population growth, due to genetic weaknesses, intolerance of humans, and a lack of willingness to release more animals and bonded pairs into the wild, they continue to be the most endangered subspecies of wolves in the world.

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Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash

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

Mexican wolves run at a speed ranging from 36 to 38 miles per hour. The Mexican wolves eat wild animals like elk, muke deer, and white-tailed deer. They eat the stacked food mainly and stay 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.

10.2. Red Wolf

Lean canids known as red wolves frequently have bushy tails with black tips. While some of their backs are black, the majority of their coats are brown or buff in hue.

On occasion, the fur on their muzzle, behind their ears, and on the backs of their legs will have a reddish hue. The scientific name of this species is Canis Lupus Rufus.

A red wolf could initially resemble a domestic German shepherd. The red wolf is sized in between a coyote and a gray wolf.  They are found on the southeastern sides of the U.S. This species is closely related to the eastern wolf found in eastern Canada ( Canis Lupus Lycaon).

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By Dylan Mullins from Unsplash

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

The life span of red wolves is less than compared of 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, and rodents and rarely kill sheep and other animals. They depend on killing small mammals, and sometimes in scarcity, they even eat insects.

11. Wolves’ Conservation

Gray 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 and commercially exploited, and after solid conservation and referring traffic, both wolf 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.

Wolves In Number The United States of America
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