Wolves are carnivores, as they primarily consume meat-based foods and do not actively seek out plant-based dietary supplements.
The main diet of wolves is ungulates. They group up in packs to hunt down larger species of ungulates to provide food for the entire pack.
Wolves will also eat smaller mammals such as rabbits, and smaller animals they can easily catch like rodents. These smaller animals of prey are the preferred type of food when the wolf is alone.
They are also very potent predators when they group up in packs. That’s what makes them an apex predator and such a formidable force in nature that not many other animals are willing to oppose.
Are Wolves Herbivores, Carnivores or Omnivores?
a) Are they Herbivores?
No, wolves are not herbivores.
A herbivore is an animal that only eats vegetables. (An animal that eats vegetables and meat is called an omnivore – discussed below).
Clearly, we know that wolves eat many types of animals. So, they are not classified as herbivores.
Many of the animals they consume are herbivores, though. If you look at their core diet, you get animals like rabbits, deer, and squirrels. This is reflective of the food chain, where herbivores are by definition lower down the chain than carnivores.
b) Are they Carnivores?
Yes, wolves are carnivores.
Wolves are a predator species, meaning they have evolved to become excellent hunters. Wolves will eat almost any carnivorous type of food they can find in their habitat, including ungulates, rabbits, smaller rodents, and even birds.
You can tell a wolf is a carnivore due to many of its distinct features. In fact, the “canine tooth” is named for their species. This is the sharp tooth inside an animal’s mouth designed to tear meat.
You could use your tongue to feel your own canine teeth right now. They’re the two teeth toward the front corners of your mouth on the top row of teeth. They are sharper and longer than your other teeth. You’ll probably notice you use them when tearing into a steak dinner.
Common animals they consume include:
This is the primary category of food that wolves like to pursue. Depending on the type of habitat the wolves live in, they might go after the different types of ungulates that are only available in their habitat.
In colder, northern habitats, wolves will hunt elk and caribou, as well as the musk-oxen.
However, these larger ungulates are specifically hard to catch, because they’re larger than the wolf and some even have defensive mechanisms, like the musk-oxen. When they hunt larger groups of these animals, they prefer to target weakened animals that are not able to defend themselves fully.
In warmer habitats, wolves will hunt deer. This type of food is especially common in milder habitats like the Mediterranean climate and other similar climates especially in Europe and North America.
2. Smaller Mammals
When there aren’t many larger animals around and they need to find a quick snack, wolves will go after smaller animals they can find in the habitat.
These include hares, beavers, and other smaller mammals that are available around them. However, their job might not be as easy as you might think when they go after these smaller animals.
Smaller mammals are tricky and at times, they can hide in small crevices. Some might climb up trees, which makes the job for wolves harder.
However, these smaller mammals are preferred when the wolf is alone and not with the group. They can also eat the bones of smaller animals but not larger animals.
Wolves will also eat rats and mice and some other rodents, depending on the habitat they live in.
These rodents are also slightly harder to track down, and they’re the preferred type of food when wolves wander off alone.
4. Birds, Snakes, and Other Animals
Wolves are opportunists, which means they won’t waste any opportunity to find food when they can.
Because they go through periods of feast and famine, they will have to make do with anything they might be able to find in their habitat. That’s why they often resort to catching animals that are slightly harder to kill, such as snakes or birds.
When they go after birds, they prefer to attack bird nests that are closer to the ground. Wolves are not especially good climbers, which means they will resort to this type of food only rarely.
As for the snakes they catch, they go after non-poisonous snakes whenever possible, although they don’t tend to catch snakes as their primary type of food.
c) Are they Omnivores?
It’s arguable that wolves are in fact omnivores, but commonly we consider them to be carnivores because plants are a minimal part of their diet.
However, several studies have confirmed the presence of vegetables in a wolf’s scat. While some wolves will consume plant matter unintentionally, it is believed that wolves will occasionally intentionally eat plants to supplement their diets.
Nevertheless, wolves seem to much prefer meat – which is why we commonly refer to them as carnivores.
Even when compared to a dog, a wolf is much more oriented towards meat-based foods than a dog would be. That’s because of centuries of evolution differences and because dogs live with humans, they have become adapted to different types of food, including vegetables.
Wolves, on the other hand, have always been carnivores. Because of their evolution, they have resorted to killing animals in their habitat for food, and it’s a feature they’ve retained until today and for the foreseeable future.
Do Wolves eat Grass?
Wolves do not normally eat grass, but they might consume some grass as a result of eating other animals that do eat grass.
For instance, when wolves kill a deer, they will try to eat almost every part of the deer, or as much of it as possible.
Their preferred type of food is the intestines, and it’s the first thing they’ll eat. But when they eat intestines, they will passively also consume any grass that might have been inside the intestines of the animals they have caught.
And because deer feed on grass, wolves will passively also consume the grass that was found inside the intestines.
However, wolves do not actively look for grass and eat them as herbivores do.
Why Are Wolves Carnivores?
There are two main reasons for this:
- Their habitat
The evolution of the wolf has conditioned every part of the wolf to become accustomed to meat only. This means that a wolf is built for hunting, and it has developed its senses as well as its physical features in accordance with the types of food they eat.
They have sharp teeth and good senses, which enable them to catch animals with ease. Compared to some other animals, they are one of the most meat-leaning animals in the world, and it is shown in their physical features.
They also have a digestion system that’s strongly focused on meat.
The other major factor is the habitats they live in.
Some wolf species, especially the arctic wolf, live in areas where there are not many other types of food around other than meat.
That’s why they’ve learned to survive only on food from meat-based sources, even if some wolves might have to go through prolonged periods of famine.
That’s when some wolves will start eating fruits around them like berries, but that won’t happen too often, and it’s not an important part of their diets anyway.
Wolves are and have always been carnivores. This means that their primary type of food is meat, as they will try and catch almost any other animal they can find in their habitats.
Sometimes, this means grouping up with other wolves and forming packs, which makes them more effective against larger animals of prey.