Like dogs, wolves will bury their food that they can’t eat immediately so that they have it safe for later and that no other animals are able to have access to it.
This behavior is the result of surplus killing, which happens with most carnivore species. When there is an abundance of food in their habitat, wolves will sometimes hunt and kill more than they can eat. They won’t let the excess food go to waste, and they will bury it instead for later use.
Why Do Wolves Bury Their Food?
Wolves will bury their food because they want to save it for later in case they can’t eat it immediately.
Another reason for this behavior is that they don’t want to enable other species easy access to the food they catch, so they will bury it and use it at a later date. It will almost certainly come useful to them in times of need such as during the winter, especially if there are pups in the pack.
This behavior is the result of their evolutionary path and it’s something that most carnivore species do.
The same has also been observed with dogs, which have kept this behavior. So if you own a dog, you’ve probably already seen that it likes to bury the bones you give it under the ground, which it does because it has enough food to eat.
Even though it gets enough food from other sources, it will bury the bones in order to keep them for a later date and dig them out when they feel hungry.
Wolves do the same. They eat different types of bones though, because we give dogs cooked bones and they get a different structure than a raw bone would. So wolves will prefer to bury relatively small bones that they can’t eat immediately, while they let larger pieces of bones out there.
What is Surplus Killing?
Wolves don’t hunt for sport, but they hunt for survival, which is why they sometimes excessively hunt during the summer when there is an abundance of food, allowing them to get prepared for the winter.
Surplus killing is thus the act of killing more food that wolves can eat, but they don’t do this for fun like humans, for example.
This behavior is seen with almost all carnivores, although some animals do this for sport, like wild cats and you might have even seen your cats kill other animals like birds purely for fun.
Wolves don’t do that, though. Firstly, it’s because where they live, there might not be enough food for them to survive, so they tend to leave enough food for the entire year.
The second reason is that they don’t have the killer instinct like wild cats do, so they won’t go head over heels over a piece of food if they can’t get it.
They will only kill more food they can eat when there is an abundance of food and when they need to prepare for a harsh summer. This is why they will bury the bones of the animals they catch and use it at a later date when they are hungry.
Sometimes, they will go through periods of hunger, which might be extensive and might cause the smaller pups of the pack to die if there is not enough food. That’s when the food stashes they create during the period of abundance can come useful.
Do Wolves Eat the Bones of the Prey?
Wolves will eat as much as they can from the animals they catch, although they won’t be able to consume the larger bones of the larger animals of prey.
For instance, when wolves go after caribou, they might eat smaller bones like the ribs and legs, while they will leave the head and often even the spine since these bones are too big but also too pointy, which can damage a wolf’s digestive tract.
When wolves catch smaller animals, they will try to consume the entire animal, especially if they go after smaller mammals and rodents. These can be a nice snack when the wolf splits from the pack.
But when they hunt in packs, they will almost always go for larger animals, which will satisfy the hunger of the entire pack.
When that happens, they will attack larger animals like deer, caribou, elk, and musk-oxen. These animals are harder to bring down, so they will employ special tactics like cornering and even stealth to lure one animal of prey out of the herd and catch it.
Once the animal is caught, they will either kill it by biting into its neck or start eating straight away if the animal is too big to kill.
They will try to eat the smaller bones, but they will almost always leave the head and the spine, which might be too tough for them to digest.
What Types of Food Will Wolves Bury?
They will bury larger chunks of food they can’t eat immediately, such as larger bones and also some smaller bones they can’t eat right away if they’re satiated.
Wolves will first eat the intestines and then eat the rest of the meat on the animal. A normal wolf can eat up to 10 pounds of meat daily or in one feeding, which will keep its hunger away for several days.
When they catch a larger animal, there will normally be enough food for the entire pack, while some wolves will also eat the bones of the prey.
If the bones are too large to eat, they will leave them and they will bury the smaller bones that they can’t eat immediately. This will create a stash of food they can access at a later date when crisis hits.
The act of burying food is often observed with domestic dogs, which is a feature they have kept from the common species they shared with the wolf several thousand years ago.
They have formed this habit which they have “programmed” in their brains as they let no food go to waste. What they can’t eat immediately they will bury and leave for a later date, which may come useful at times of need.
This type of resourcefulness allows wolves to survive even in the harshest winter conditions.