What Wolves Eat
Since our fur buddy is around 99% wolf, it is important to understand the foundation of wolves’ diet. 1 Their diet depends on their species, location, and resources available.
Red wolves primarily prey on white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, nutria and other rodents.
Gray wolves, the subject for most of my research, hunt primarily for wild ungulates: large, hoofed mammals such as deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, sheep, musk oxen, and mountain goats.
Birds such as turkey and waterfowl as well as their eggs are also a welcomed choice for wolves. They also enjoy smaller mammals like beaver, hare, squirrels, marmot, badgers, foxes, weasels, voles, and rodents.
Wolves have been observed catching fish like salmon or pike in places like Alaska and western Canada.2 3 They are not picky about eating grasshoppers, earthworms, frogs, snake, and lizards when food is scarce.
Often if fresh meat is not available, wolves will just fine with carrion.
In areas of dense human activity, wolves have been found to visit slaughterhouses or attack domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep.4 5
Some wolves have been observed to eat small amounts of fruit, mostly berries, grass, nightshade vegetables, apples, pears, and melon.
How Wolves Eat
When wolves take down their prey, the order of the parts they consume can give us an interesting insight.
According to Mech and Boitani, they consume larger organs such as heart, liver, lungs, stomach linings first. The kidney and spleen are eaten once they are exposed. Then they munch down on muscles.6
This is an important observation because this gives us an idea of what is an appropriate meal for dogs. Understanding the ratio of organs, muscles, and other nutrients that wolves usually eat allows us to build a parallel experience for our domesticated friends, sans the hunt.
Canines, including wolves and dogs, have an impressive gut flora. Their stomach bile is acidic with a pH of 2 or lower.7 This highly acidic environment, which includes hydrochloric acid, supports the breakdown of raw meat and bones. It also kills most bacteria. Fun fact: their gut is ten times stronger than humans.
The gastrointestinal tract of a canine is much shorter than humans.7 With a shorter GI tract, raw meat is easily digested and absorbed quickly. This also gives bad bacteria less time to react before it exits the body.
The canine stomach is designed to kill any pathogens or bad bacteria that comes with raw meat. This can explain why canines can eat roadkill, some of our two-weeks old garbage, or even cat poop without getting sick.
Being too clean can also be dangerous as there are about 90% good bacteria and 10% bad bacteria in our world.8 Scientists have only identified 1 to 10% of bacterias living in this world. So, don’t worry too much about Salmonella or E. Coli.
However, do commit to proper storage and cleanliness to minimize any additional risk that could overload your fur friends’ digestive system.
Series: Raw Meat For Dogs
This blog post is part of a series on raw-meat for dogs. If you’ll like to read more about this topic, check out the other posts:
1. Budiansky, Stephen. (1999, July). The Truth About Dogs. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/07/the-truth-about-dogs/376853.
2. Woodford, Riley. “Alaska’s Salmon-Eating Wolves”. Wildlifenews.alaska.gov. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
3. Gable, T. D.; Windels, S. K.; Homkes, A. T. (2018). “Do wolves hunt freshwater fish in spring as a food source?”. Mammalian Biology. 91: 30–33. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2018.03.007.
4. Heptner, V.G. and Naumov, N.P. (1998). Mammals of the Soviet Union Vol. II Part 1a, SIRENIA AND CARNIVORA (Sea cows; Wolves and Bears), Science Publishers, Inc. USA., pp. 164–270, ISBN 1-886106-81-9
5. Hoffmann, M. & Macdonald, D. W. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland and Cambridge: IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. pp. 124–129.
6. Mech, L. David; Boitani, Luigi, eds. (2003). Wolves: Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-51696-7.
7. Vets All Natural. (n.d.) Digesting Bones, Gastric Acidity, Salmonella in Dogs and Cats. Retrieved from https://vetsallnatural.com.au/digesting-bones-gastric-acidity-salmonella-dogs-cats.
8. Purdom, Georgia M.D. (2007, June 16) Bacteria: More Good than Bad and Ugly. Retrieved from https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/antibiotic-resistance/bacteria-more-good-than-bad-and-ugly.