The wolf hunt may seem very brutal and harsh, but without wolves doing what they do, the populations they hunt would grow entirely out of control and create an ecological mess. Diseased individuals would breed; the herds would continue to reproduce, producing unhealthy animals. Wolves keep this from happening by going after the sick, the injured, or the older, weaker animals. These are all facts that most people know and even understand as they are not the only ones to hunt this way. The wolf has proven that it is incredibly intelligent and able to detect those animals that are not healthy or inferior in some way. The hunt is fascinating to watch as these animals have found different ways to tackle many different situations concerning things like the kind of prey they pursue, the type of landscape, the weather, and several other factors. While wolves are highly skilled hunters, they are not as successful as we like to think, only getting one kill in about ten, depending on the area.
Wolves will go after smaller prey in between their bigger feedings. Due to their lack of success with regard to the larger hunts and not knowing when their next meal will be, they supplement with the smaller animals. For this article, we will stick with the typical grey wolf. Usually, once the hunt is over, it is time to go looking for their next meal which may require them to go many miles in between herds as they don’t usually continually take from the same one over an over within the same time frame. The smaller animals they go after are hare, beaver, and even salmon. But their usual prey is the ungulates, or hooved animals, such as deer, elk, caribou, moose, even bison or muskoxen. These animals are incredibly dangerous, particularly the large ones with the horns. However, due to the way the wolves work together, they can bring down prey that is three to four times larger than themselves.
A wolf’s greatest asset is its speed and endurance, making it a phenomenal athlete in the animal world. And in a pack, working together, they can outlast almost any prey. There are a few stages in the hunt; searching or traveling, the selection, the chase or the confrontation, the attack, and the kill. As we all know, wolves have an incredible sense of hearing and can smell from miles away. Because the pack’s members usually stay together, they learn what they need to do to make a hunt successful, working the herds, chasing the animals to find their target, and then going after it with incredible precision, like a very well-oiled machine, each knowing what they need to do. Wolves go after their target together, but one usually keeps the animal going to wear them down, then others will take over so that the chase can go on until the animal either falters or the wolves bring the animal down where the rest of the pack can then quickly finish it off. As sad as it may be, usually the animal dies of shock or blood loss or both.
Depending on the size of the wolf pack, if it is rather large, not all wolves participate in the hunt, specifically the younger members. They are watching and learning how to handle all of the different situations so that when the time comes for them to join the hunt, they are just as aware of what needs to be done and how so that the well-oiled machine can continue functioning with that same precision. As usual, certain members do one thing particularly well, and that is the position they play when on the hunt. The lighter, faster females tend to take on herding aspects, running and darting in between animals, causing chaos and keeping animals from getting too far. The males tend to be much bigger and take down the larger animals aggressively. Wolves make the best with what they have, strong legs and powerful jaws. Their entire balance is based on how well they can defend themselves while taking down prey. Due to the size of their prey, it is incredible how few are injured in this incredible adventure. A single well-placed kick or slash of a horn can kill or wound a wolf. Sometimes, wolves have to weigh the meal versus the possibility of getting injured