What Do Arctic Wolves Eat? (These 14 Animals)

Arctic wolves are carnivores and will eat most other smaller animals in their habitat such as arctic hares, lemmings, birds, beetles, and even arctic foxes. They’ll also go for larger animals such as caribou, musk-oxen, and deer.

White wolves, as Arctic wolves are sometimes called, live in remote areas of North America and Greenland. In their habitats, there’s usually not much food around, and they’ll have to get whatever they can catch. Often, this means grouping up in a pack and going after larger animals, which is the arctic wolf’s preferred way to hunt.

what do arctic wolves eat

Let’s take a look at what foods do arctic wolves eat and see which foods they don’t eat, as well.

What Animals do Arctic Wolves Eat?

1. Snow Owls

Adult snow owls don’t have many predators naturally because it will fly too high for the predators to catch it, but baby snow owls will likely be a prey to arctic wolves if they’re easy to catch.

Snowy owls have their nests relatively low, which enables many potential predators to access the nest and eat the eggs or the babes inside.

They live in colder habitats like tundras and the Arctic. Snow owl males will usually be in charge of protecting the nest against potential predators. But if they leave the nest unattended, some predators like arctic wolves will be able to gain access to a decent meal like an egg or a snow owl baby.

2. Penguins

Arctic wolves don’t normally eat adult penguins, but they might be able to snatch penguin eggs and chicks if they are not protected.

Penguins are very good at keeping their nests hidden and secret, though. And the adult penguins are exceptional swimmers, so they’re able to escape potential threats by simply diving deep into the cold waters of the Arctic.

They will face other dangers and potential threats in or near the waters, though. Seal, sea lions, and sharks might always be on the lookout for penguins, which can present a decently sized meal for a hungry animal that can catch it.

Read Also: Why do Wolves have Pointy Ears?

3. Arctic Foxes

Yes, arctic wolves can catch and eat arctic foxes, although they’re not their preferred type of food, and will only resort to it if there’s a shortage of food.

An arctic fox, or a polar fox, is a very specific type of fox. It has an all-white coat and is very adept at surviving cold temperatures. When it gets too cold, they will hide in their dens and curl up very closely to conserve heat.

However, they will also need to leave their dens from time to time, especially when they need to get food for themselves. Arctic foxes prey on smaller animals like lemmings and seal pups, which will prompt them to leave their dens. And that’s when the arctic wolf will be on the lookout to catch an arctic fox.

Read Also: Does a Fox-Wolf Hybrid Really Exist?

4. Arctic Hares

The white wolf will catch and eat arctic hares, which is one of the preferred types of meal for solitary arctic wolves.

The arctic hare is a herbivore, as it will feed on roots and other types of plants that they can find in a tundra. They’ll travel in groups and they might cover several miles per day. But they’re more exposed and easy to catch when they go together in groups.

This makes the job for the arctic wolf slightly easier than catching a single arctic hare. It will pick on the more vulnerable hares that get left behind, especially the older hares or the younger ones.

Read Also: Are Wolves Cannibals?

5. Polar Bears

Arctic wolves will not normally eat a polar bear, but it might go after polar bear cubs if they’re exposed and not protected.

Polar bears and arctic wolves have different habitats, meaning that they’ll rarely meet each other in the wild. Bears will spend the majority of their time near waters such as lakes and rivers, as well as the sea. Occasionally, they’ll jump into the water to try and catch fish or baby seals.

Arctic wolves, on the other hand, live in more wooden areas that are away from the sea. But polar bears might sometimes wander into that territory, which makes the arctic wolves hungry if there are polar bear cubs. And if the cub is not protected, then an arctic wolf will go after it.

6. Seals

A baby seal is one of the preferred foods for the arctic wolf on its menu, although it will not kill and catch adult seals.

Seals are found near the sea in the arctic, which means they’re normally not in the same habitat as the arctic wolf. Sometimes, the wolf might wander into that area, especially considering that a wolf might have large territories of about 1000 square miles.

Wolves will not be able to kill or catch an adult seal, because it will fight back and it also has the capacity to hide from the wolf by jumping into the sea. But baby seals are much easier to catch, and they can be a decent meal for several members of a wolf pack.

7. Caribou

Arctic wolves will primarily hunt on larger groups of caribou, although catching them might not be as straightforward for the wolf as you might imagine.

Caribous live in forests and on the outskirts of forests, and they’ll also sometimes wander out of the forest.

A caribou can have giant antlers, which are meant to protect the caribou and scare away predators. They will also fight back when necessary, making them a potent and unpleasant opponent, especially if they group up.

They’re also larger than wolves in size, which makes it near impossible for a single wolf to hunt down a caribou herd. This forces arctic wolves to hunt down caribous in packs, where they will try to single out the weakest member of the caribou group and kill it, which will provide enough food for the entire pack.

8. Musk-Oxen

Yes, the musk-oxen is also one of the primary types of food for arctic wolves, especially in remote areas where there’s not much other types of food around.

However, the musk-oxen is a scary proposition for a single arctic wolf.

These animals are very strong and can hurt or even kill a wolf with its powerful charge. The leader of the musk-oxen herd will do everything it can to scare away the arctic wolf and protect the smaller musk-oxen in the group.

As a warning shot, the leader will charge at the wolf head-on, and if the arctic wolf doesn’t get out of the way, it will hurt it or even kill it. But if the wolves can single out the weaker members of the herd, they will try to bring it down by disabling it first and then killing it, which can provide for a good meal for the rest of the pack.

Read Also: Do Wolves Eat Horses?

9. Lemmings

Arctic wolves will also eat lemmings, which are sometimes found in the Arctic and can be a great snack for a solitary wolf.

But one of the main challenges that comes with killing lemmings is finding where they are. Because lemmings are so small, they’re slippery for the wolf to catch and might hide in crevices and smaller holes.

Lemmings are the go-to food for lone wolves because they’re slightly easier to catch than some other larger animals.

10. Eagles

Arctic wolves will not hunt and eat eagles, especially adult eagles.

Wolves are also not great climbers, which means they won’t be able to reach an eagle’s nest in order to eat eagle babes and eggs.

On very rare occasions, arctic wolves might find an eagle that’s been badly hurt and can’t move, which is when they’ll capitalize on the opportunity and eat the eagle. However, these opportunities don’t come along too often.

11. Smaller Nesting Birds

An arctic wolf will eat smaller birds if they are nesting low and if they are able to catch the bird by surprise.

While eagles are not attainable for the arctic wolf, some smaller bird species might be a more appropriate type of food for them. Most nesting birds have their nests in higher places, which makes it near impossible for the arctic wolf to reach them.

However, on rare occasions, an arctic wolf might surprise nesting birds that have their nests on lower areas, which is when the arctic wolf will try to eat the bird eggs and especially the babes inside the nests if they are unprotected.

Read Also: What Animals Eat Wolves?

12. Ptarmigans

Arctic wolves will also catch and eat ptarmigans.

A ptarmigan is a sedentary type of bird that lives in rocky areas and mountainous areas, and they won’t fly very high and very often. This gives the wolves a good opportunity to creep up onto them and catch them.

If the ptarmigan is not quick enough to fly away and escape (which happens often), the arctic wolf will pounce on the opportunity. They’re the preferred type of food for lone arctic wolves that have wandered away from their packs.

13. Beetles

Beetles will be on the menu of an arctic wolf if there is a real shortage of food, but they can also be a good snack for the arctic wolf.

Most wolves go through periods of feast and famine, especially because in their habitat, they will have to travel several miles per day only to get enough food for the entire pack.

Along the way, a wolf will always be on the lookout for smaller animals that it can eat as a snack. One of them is a beetle. While it is not the preferred type of food for the arctic wolf, it’s one of the foods they can consider if they’re in need of a quick snack when they’re travelling.

14. Scavenging

Last but not least, we must also mention that arctic wolves are good scavengers, as they will try to find every opportunity they can to find food for themselves.

Because of the seasonal availability of their animals of prey and the shortage of food, they sometimes have to resort to come closer to human civilization and scavenge through our waste and garbage.

If they find something worthy of eating and something that still has some food on it, they will grab it and eat it. But they won’t do that if they’re too close to humans or human settlements, though.

Final Thoughts

Arctic wolves are carnivores and they’ll consume almost any meat-based food in their habitat. They’re also not particularly picky, as they will go after a wide variety of foods. 

Their animals of prey might be as big as a musk-oxen, but also as small as a beetle. They’re very resourceful though, and will not hesitate to scavenge when they have the need to.