How Do Gray Wolves Hunt?

gray-wolves-hunt Credit: Christina Krutz/age fotostock/Getty Images

Gray wolves are carnivores that hunt in packs of up to 36, or on their own, finding prey by chance or via scent. In packs, they are capable of bringing down animals many times the size of an individual wolf, including bison, moose, elk, musk oxen or reindeer. When on their own, they hunt smaller animals such as rabbits or beavers.

According to Animal Diversity Web, wolf society is highly hierarchical, with the alpha male and alpha female being the only wolves in the pack that breed. They also eat first at any kill. The rest of any pack is composed of their offspring and any unrelated wolves they have adopted. Each wolf has its own place in the hierarchy, with the station of those below rising when something happens to a higher-ranked wolf. The pack works as a whole both to hunt and to defend its territory, which can be very large depending on the size of the pack and the availability of food.

Gray wolves are peak predators and have few predators themselves, although general human activities, particularly habitat destruction and deliberate hunting, have reduced them to a much smaller number and range than they once occupied. They were once ubiquitous throughout the northern hemisphere. Wolves are occasionally killed by other wolves or by packs of coyotes.