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What Do Wolves Eat?

Wolves are carnivores but have been described as animals that will eat anything in the wild. Around my property, I often find the remains of small mammals. I know this is because of the wolves because I hear them howling almost every night. This article will explain what wolves eat.

Wolves are carnivores and feed on prey from earthworms to animals as large as moose. Elk, deer, sheep, and goats make up a large part of a wolf’s diet. Smaller mammals, including rabbits, hares, and beavers, are part of their diet. Wolves will also feed on insects, nuts, fruits, and berries.

Wolves have a fascinating diet, and in this article, I answer what their favorite food is and how much food and water they need to survive.

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Wolf

What Does a Wolf Eat?

The complete list of the diet of a North American wolf consists of the following.

  • Moose
  • Elk
  • Deer
  • Caribou
  • Buffalo
  • Sheep
  • Goat
  • Wild horse
  • Wild boar
  • Rabbit
  • Hare
  • Marmot
  • Gopher
  • Beaver
  • Porcupine
  • Raccoon
  • Rat
  • Mole
  • Shrew
  • Muskrat
  • Woodchuck
  • Mouse
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Berries
  • Earthworms
  • Garbage
  • Carrion
  • Birds
  • Grass

Diet and Location

Studies from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Yukon Fish and Wildlife Branch have provided data on wolves’ primary and secondary prey.

LocationPrimary PreySecondary Prey
United States of America
AlaskaCaribou Moose
MichiganDeerDeer
MinnesotaDeerHare
MontanaDeerElk
OregonElkDeer
WisconsinDeerHare
Yukon TerritoriesMooseDall Sheep
Canada
AlbertaMooseHare
ManitobaElkMoose
Northwest TerritoriesCaribouBirds
OntarioBeaverDeer
QuebecMooseBeaver

There are four main ways that animals eat.  Find out what they are here.

When the calves of caribou are born in Alaska, the wolves change their focus from sheep to these young deer. It has been noted that the deaths of sheep from predation by wolves were almost non-existent in this period.

In Alberta, Canada, in Jasper National Park, the diet of wolves in the area will change once mule deer have their calves. The wolves change from feeding on the adult mule deer to focusing on the young entirely.

Caribou migrate North for the summer, these new grounds providing nutritious foods to help new calves and other caribou grow healthy before winter.

Wolves that would typically have fed on these caribou have to change their diet. Their diets change from caribou to ground squirrels and mice.

In Alaska, when the caribou migrates North, a study showed that mice and other rodents made up 26 percent of the wolf’s diet during these summer months.

Beavers are another source of food that is important to the wolf at these times. In northern and central Canada, beavers make up a large portion of the total diet of wolves hunting alone while trying to find a mate. A beaver is the ideal size of rodent for the wolf.

Wolves also enjoy eating fish. In Alaska, wolves catch and eat salmon. They do not just scavenge carcasses left behind by other animals but fish them from rivers and streams.

The wolves target fish that are in tidal pools and shallow water. It has been noted that when they are full of salmon, they will bite their heads off and eat these. The fat from salmon can help fatten up the pups, and this can increase their chances of survival over the winter.

Wolves are excellent at fishing and hunting, but they also get food by scavenging other animal kills. Studies showed that twenty-six had died of natural causes out of thirty moose carcasses in Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada.

Only four of the thirty carcasses were killed by wolves, although many wolf researchers said it was difficult to determine and did not agree.

Want to know how wolves communicate with each other. I have written an article which you can find here.

How Much Does a Wolf Eat Per Day?

A wolf can eat between five and twelve pounds of food per day, but some studies show wolves eat up to almost fourteen pounds of moose during winter. Another wolf was seen to devour nineteen pounds of meat from one meal.

However, they do not eat every day. A wolf can last for a few days without feeding. Some studies showed wolves spending up to twelve days in between feedings.

Wolf

When they come across a large carcass or bring down a large animal, they can stay with the corpse for many days, filling themselves up before laying around bloated.

In a study in Alaska, only a tiny percentage of their time was spent feeding.

Feeding9.8%
Sleeping or resting48.8%
Walking or running34.6%
Social behavior6.8%

I have written an article on the evolution of the wolf, which you can find here.

Do Wolves Cache Their Kills?

Wolves, as well as some other mammals, do cache their kills away from the kill site. These caches can be as far as half a mile away.

The animals are stored underground and dug up by the wolves using their front paws. Once the meat is inside, the wolf uses its nose to replace the dirt. Caching is more prevalent in the colder northern and Arctic territories.

Caching is quite common for mammals, and scientists believe that this is to keep the food for later times. Scientists think that this behavior is used to distract them from the killing memories, which can be stressful.

Ever wondered which species of wolf live in North America. I have written an article here.

How Much Do Wolves Drink?

Wolves depend on their prey for a lot of their water intake. Wolves generally need between a quarter to three-quarters of a gallon of water per day.

The amount of extra water they need per day depends on their climate, the size of animals they have recently eaten, and the animal’s moisture content.

Moisture is also extracted from other food sources. Fruits such as apples and pears, insects, earthworms, and berries, including blueberries and raspberries, contain water that the wolf can extract.

Do you know why wolves howl?  Find out here

What Do Wolves Need To Survive?

As with many other animals and mammals, wolves need fat, protein, and carbohydrates to thrive and survive. The food that a wolf eats is generally high in fat and protein. However, they are deficient in carbohydrates, with a ratio of 54:45:1.

Wolves will meet their nutritional requirements not from one meal but over time. Wolves will seek out certain nutrients if their body tells them they need them.

Wolves, along with eating carrion, also eat feces. This contains billions of living and dead bacteria. The bacteria give them essential fatty acids, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, enzymes, vitamins, and an excellent protein source.

For more information on wolves, I have compiled 101 facts, which you can find here.