Wolves have been creatures of fascination since the oldest of times. We love to marvel at these beautiful creatures in zoos and are obsessed with the concept of turning into a werewolf that howls hungrily at the full moon.
Wolves are native to Eurasia and North America. They are the largest member of the Canidae family. There are 38 subspecies of wolf including the domesticated dog. Many wolf-dog hybrids are both kept as pets and found in the wild.
It is uncommon to keep a main wolf species like the Grey Wolf as a pet but not entirely unheard of. These carnivores are often labeled as pests since they can cause a lot of damage to livestock farmers but they can also be very friendly and social when raised in captivity. Wolves raised as pets can be very adaptive to human habitats but they will still retain certain instincts that aren’t ideal for home living.
The average male wolf weighs around 40kg and female adult wolves weigh around 37kg. As you can imagine, these large animals can have quite a healthy appetite. Their appetite is affected by their age, the size of their pack, their habitat, and their species. Smaller wolf species like the Indian Wolf, for example, may consume smaller food sources or prefer to scavenge instead of hunt for food.
Wolves are often mistaken for dogs and treated as dogs when they are domesticated. They do however differ quite a lot from domesticated dogs and have different feeding requirements. Wolves are carnivores and as such prefer to consume meat. Their teeth are more curved than those of dogs and they can consume much greater quantities of food in a single setting than dogs.
Here is a quick look at the main foods that wolves consume;
Wolves are mammals.
During the first 6 – 8 weeks of their lives, they rely on their mother’s milk for survival. Orphaned wolves can also be nourished on high protein milk formula.
Wolves require milk feedings every 3 hours to ensure their health.
Ungulates are hoofed animals. These are the wolf’s favorite food since they are larger and prefer to hunt in packs.
Wolves are not quite as fond of smaller animals but they are happy to consume these creatures. They will hunt and eat beavers, rabbits, rodents, poultry and more. This is especially a common food source for lone wolves, small wolf packs and during harsh times.
Insects are not a common or preferred food source for wolves. They will, however, catch and consume insects in times of need or when their bodies crave certain lacking minerals. Wolves tend to focus on high protein insects like grasshoppers, certain moths and more.
Wolves will also capture reptiles and not always just for feeding. They are curious high-energy animals and enjoy the thrill of hunting and catching creatures. They may choose to attack reptiles like lizards simply for the thrill. Wolves will also feed off these types of animals in times of need.
This is a rather uncommon food source for wolves. They are not as agile with fishing as they are with on-land hunting but wolves will occasionally fish and consume fish. The owners of domesticated wolves may also choose to offer fish to balance out their pet’s diet.
Wolves cannot get enough water from the foods they consume. They will need to drink plenty of fresh water, especially on hot days.
They can however fast and will then live off their fat reserves until they can reach the waterhole. It is best to offer a pet or captivated wolf lots of freshwater to keep them content and cool on hot days.
In periods of great need, wolves will show quite a few diet variations. They may choose to consume fruits and vegetables if animal food supply is very low. Domesticated wolves may also choose to feed on these foods occasionally. It is, however, important to know that a wolf’s digestive system is incredibly fast and they require lots of protein to stay healthy.
A fruit and veggie diet can be very unhealthy for a wolf.
Wolves can vary from fully tamed and domesticated to wild. Domesticated wolves and wolves in captivity are easily fed by simply offering the animal pieces of raw meat in a feeding bowl at feeding times.
Wild wolves can, however, be territorial. When you approach a wolf in the wild, it is very likely to run off although these animals can be aggressive. Wolves are also quite vulnerable to diseases like rabies in which case the wild wolf may seem tame but can lash out and bite at any given time. If you are feeding wild wolves then caution is always necessary, especially if the wolf shows strange behaviors like tameness.
Wolves are mammals and their young are called pups. Their eyes are closed for the first two weeks of life and they rely on their mother’s milk for survival. A wolf can birth 1 – 10 pups at a time although average litters consist of 5 pups.
Wolf pups will start to wean at 4 – 5 weeks old and will, at this time, start to consume solid foods.
They are still too young to hunt and will be supplied with regurgitated meat until they are old enough to join the hunting pack at around six months old.
Interesting fact – Wolves will adopt and feed the pups of other wolves.
The amount of food a wolf requires to stay healthy may depend on its subspecies and age. Smaller subspecies will consume less food than large grey wolf species. A wolf also has different feeding amount requirements for different stages of its life. Here is a quick look at the food requirement of an average wolf.
They will gradually increase meat consumption until they are 4 – 5 weeks old and ready for weaning.
In summer and autumn, wolves may consume more foods than winter times. This is because of their instinct to store fat for harsh winter months.
Their bodies preserve protein and fat that keeps them going through harsh times.
Domesticated wolves are fed all year round and as such do not need to preserve foods. It is best to feed a domesticated wolf or wolf in captivity a healthy and balanced diet to keep it from overeating every day and while ensuring that your wolf gets sufficient sustenance.
A wolf can consume up to 22.9 pounds of meat per day because their bodies reserve fat and protein from these foods so they can maintain high energy levels in times of fasting.
Wolves that are kept in captivity do not need this much food for each mealtime because they can be fed more regularly. Wolves in captivity often have strict feeding schedules and are usually fed every 2 – 3 days since the ‘fasting’ days keep their bodies healthy and prevent obesity.
In captivity, wolves consume up to 20 lbs of meat per wolf per week. This is around 6.6 lbs of meat per feeding session per wolf.
In the wild, wolves can only consume foods that are available to them. Wild wolves usually hunt in packs although there are some lone wolves out there that need to hunt on their own. A wolf pack’s size affects its ability to take down prey.
Individual wolves will focus on smaller animals where large packs prefer to hunt and eat larger hoofed mammals. A pack of four wolves is sufficient for hunting elk but a much bigger pack is required to take down a bison.
Wolves in the wild will also show diet variations in times of need. They will occasionally scavenge for food and may choose to hunt and eat reptiles, birds and in extremely tough times they may even munch on fruits and veggies available in the wild.
In harsh times, gamekeepers may choose to supplement wolves with meat. These extra food offerings do however need to be offered at irregular times to keep wolves from forming a habit and from becoming domesticated.
Some believe that wolf packs will continue to catch and kill animals long after they have had their fill of meat. The opposite is true. A pack of wolves will focus on a single kill. They also have a specific pack feeding structure. For example; breeding wolves are allowed to feed first so they can nourish pups and the rest of the pack will only follow once the breeding pair has had their fill.
Wild wolves are usually afraid of humans and will run rather than attack a human. They can be dangerous if they feel threatened. In the past century, only two cases of wolves killing humans have been reported.
Yes, wolves can be very dangerous to humans and it is always best to be very cautious when you are dealing with wild wolves. They will also consume human flesh if they do happen to kill a human. The chances of this happening are however very scarce since wolves are naturally afraid and are much more likely to flee than attack a human.
Wolves naturally ‘fast’ for days before they can take down new prey for consumption. In captivity, owners also try to replicate this fasting feeding method to prevent obesity in wolves since they do tend to overeat whenever they are offered food.
Wolves in captivity are usually offered chunks of meat at dedicated feeding areas. In the wild, wolves will catch and consume meat at any given place. They will hunt insects in the grass, dig out and devour burrow animals like rabbits and they will gather around hoofed mammals as a pack to take down these animals in their natural habitat.
Dogs are omnivores and as such their bodies can digest both plant and animal foods. Wolves, on the other hand, are carnivores and rely on high protein foods like meat to survive. They will munch on other foods but consuming foods like dog kibble can be toxic to your wolf in the long run.
This is because dog kibble contains lots of carbohydrates that the wolf is unable to digest or stomach. It is always better to stick to meat sources so you can keep your wolf healthy and happy.
Wolves are wonderful animals and they sure do make fantastic companions. They fare very well in domesticated settings although they are prone to obesity if they do not get sufficient exercise or if they are fed too much too often.
Wild wolves are happy to constantly return to feeding areas if they are offered food regularly. It is best not to feed wild wolves too often so you won’t interfere with their natural diet and so you can avoid personal endangerment when a wolf may feel territorial.