Arctic wolves hunt by chasing the prey down and disabling it until it is unable to move. If they go after larger animals, they will group up as a pack and look for opportunities to corner the animal and give it no escape.
In their habitat, arctic wolves hunt larger animals of prey like caribou and musk-oxen in packs, but they prefer to go alone after smaller animals like rabbits, lemmings, and ptarmigan, which are easier to catch since they don’t stand their ground.
Sometimes, they will back down when the larger animals strike back in order to avoid getting injured.
How Do They Catch Their Prey?
If they go after larger animals, they try to single out weaker members of the herd; when they go after smaller animals, they try to bring them out into the open and catch them in a race.
They’re very cautious when they’re up against larger animals of prey, though. If they feel threatened by the musk-oxen or the caribou, they’ll smartly back down and not risk their lives, even if it means they’ll be hungry for a few days more.
Instead, they’ll wait for their opportunity and only strike when they are able to isolate one weaker member of the target pack.
When they do that, they’ll run the prey down and bite it at its legs until the animal is unable to move.
Because they are hungry, wolves will start eating the prey almost immediately after pinning it down in order to satiate their hunger.
Just before the winter sets in, wolves will be more active in their predatory activity as they seek to fill themselves and prepare for the winter. This gives the pups a chance to get food to survive, although it won’t be enough for some.
What Do Arctic Wolves Hunt?
Arctic wolves prefer to hunt smaller mammals when they’re alone such as hares and lemmings, but they’ll also hunt larger animals like caribou and musk-oxen.
Wolves are largely dependent on their environment and might go days without eating. This can be dangerous to some pack members, especially the older wolves and the pups in the pack that need food more frequently to survive.
When the winter conditions get harsher and harsher, some deaths in the pack are inevitable.
But when there is more food around, wolves will eat almost anything they can find. When alone, the lone arctic wolf will be on the lookout for hares and lemmings as it will try to spot signs of these smaller animals to track them down.
When they go after smaller animals, they will try to catch them out in the open and race them down, which normally only has one winner.
For arctic wolves, hunting down musk-oxen or caribou will be more problematic.
Musk-oxen also travels around in groups which protects all of its members. The larger members will create a shield around the smaller oxen, and the stronger animals will charge against predators with their horns.
This is what happens when the musk-oxen strikes back against the wolf:
That’s why arctic wolves try to single out older members of the family or the younglings, which might be left behind by the herd.
According to WWF (Worldwildlife), arctic wolves are important in their habitat in order to keep the populations of musk-oxen and caribou down, which can prevent overcrowding in the habitat.
How Does an Arctic Wolf Kill Its Prey?
The arctic wolf will kill its prey by biting into its neck to stop the blood supply to the animal’s brain.
Normally, this means a quick death for the animal of prey but that’s not always possible, especially when up against larger animals.
When that happens, they will bite the larger animal in its legs and cripple it and then kill it, or eat it alive if they are very hungry.
When going after smaller animals, a bite into the neck will be enough to kill it and then eat it. They will prefer to eat the entire animal when going after smaller mammals, but they’ll leave larger bones when they kill larger animals.
For killing large animals, wolves have to group up and corner them so the prey have no escape. Sometimes, the members will have to approach the animals from the flank while others will attack the rear.
Read More: What Animals Eat Wolves?
Can a Wolf Be Killed When Hunting?
Yes, that is possible if they are attacked back by larger animals.
Musk-oxen have powerful attacks which can cripple wolves or even kill them if the oxen strike with their antlers in the right place.
The larger oxen will protect their herd and try to fend off the attacking arctic wolves. They will take up a defensive stance in order to protect their young, while the larger oxen will try to counter the attacking wolves as if in a gladiator arena.
If the wolf can’t get out of the way, the oxen will hurt the wolf and might break its bones, which might end up fatal for the arctic wolf.
Polar bears are also capable of striking a deadly blow to an attacking wolf. However, these encounters happen rarely because polar bears live in areas with a lot of water, while arctic wolves tend to live inland and can’t swim as well as polar bears can.
Arctic wolves are apex predators though, meaning they don’t have natural enemies but might end up getting hurt or dead when they are hunting anyways.
Arctic wolves are ruthless hunters. They’ll take every opportunity they can to get food for them, which means they’ll have to hunt down larger animals of prey like musk-oxen.
When they attack larger animals, they will group up and attack in packs. But when they attack smaller animals, the lone wolf is capable of hunting it down by running after it, as it’s often faster than the smaller mammal.