What wolves eat

As car­ni­vores, wolves will eat any­thing from a mouse to a moose in­clud­ing grasshop­pers, birds and frogs.  Although wild wolves will oc­ca­sion­ally eat ber­ries, their bod­ies re­quire meat to survive.

As Jack London wrote in White Fang, a story about a wolf-dog hy­brid, “The aim of life was meat. Life it­self was meat.”

Most wolves ob­tain their meat from un­gu­lates such as deer, elk, moose, bison and muskox­en. While it’s dan­ger­ous hunt­ing large an­im­als with horns and hooves, the huge food re­ward is worth the ef­fort and risk of in­jury or even death. On the oth­er hand, it takes a lot of mice to fill a wolf’s belly and the en­ergy ex­pen­ded is of­ten great­er than the cal­or­ies gained.

While most wolves de­pend on un­gu­lates for their susten­ance, some eat a lot of fish. This has been re­cor­ded through­out the world and of­ten in­volves fish trav­el­ling up­stream to spawn.

This wolf caught 15 sock­eye sal­mon in one hour in Brooks River, Alaska. Photo cour­tesy Paul Stinsa

But some wolves rely heav­ily on fish and mar­ine-re­lated an­im­als year-round. In fact, wolves on some British Columbia coastal is­lands primar­ily eat sal­mon, seals and shell­fish, as well as mink and Canada goose eggs. They will even move rocks at low tide to eat tiny mol­luscs called chitons. Wolves on out­er is­lands may sel­dom – if ever – see a deer.


Wolves aren’t picky about their food. They may cache some meat and dig it up for din­ner later, as well as scav­enge prey that has died of nat­ur­al causes or been killed by oth­er animals.

They can eas­ily be­come used to the easy pick­ings found at un­se­cured hu­man garbage dumps and will raid camp­sites or break into tents and kayak holds to check out hu­man food. Although they prob­ably won’t eat much of the food they find this way, they will bite into whatever they can ac­cess to check it out.

At times, wolves also kill and eat live­stock and pets, which is the ma­jor source of their con­flict with humans.

Top photo was taken on Ellesmere Island in the high arc­tic where wolves prey on hares and muskox­en. Photo cour­tesy Dave Mech