Fearsome deer hunters? No, wolves would rather dine on a dainty fish dish

wolves are as efficent as bears at catching salmon

By Daily Mail Reporter
September 2, 2008

Wolves have a reputation as fearsome meat-eating hunters, but given the choice they would rather have a tasty salmon, scientists have found. This is because a leisurely fishing trip is safer and less exhausting than chasing deer. Salmon also provides an excellent source of nutrition.

Wolves are as efficient as bears at catching salmon

Scientists made the discovery while studying the feeding habits of wolves in a remote part of British Columbia, Canada. They found that the animals happily switched to fish when salmon became available in the autumn.

‘One might expect that wolves would move on to salmon only if their mainstay deer were in short supply,’ said lead researcher Dr Chris Darimont, from the University of Victoria, Canada.

‘Our data show that this is not the case, salmon availability clearly outperformed deer availability in predicting wolves’ use of salmon.’

The team of scientists spent four years finding out what wolves had been eating, from their droppings and chemicals in their hair.

They believe wolves developed their taste for salmon because it was both easy and safe to catch, and nutritious.

Wolves are as efficient as bears at catching salmon, which they pluck from fast-flowing streams with their jaws. ‘Selecting benign prey such as salmon makes sense from a safety point of view,’ Dr Darimont said.

‘While hunting deer, wolves commonly incur serious and often fatal injuries. In addition to safety benefits, we determined that salmon also provides enhanced nutrition in terms of fat and energy.’

Their findings were reported in the online journal BMC Ecology.

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Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.