Wolves Would Rather Eat Salmon

Wolves prefer salmon over deer in British Columbia, when salmon are available. They actually abandon deer as preferred prey and head to the salmon runs.

From Science Daily:

“Although most people imagine wolves chasing deer and other hoofed animals, new research suggests that, when they can, wolves actually prefer fishing to hunting. The study shows that when salmon is available, wolves will reduce deer hunting activity and instead focus on seafood.

Chris Darimont from the University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Canada, led a team of researchers who studied the feeding habits of wolves in a remote 3,300km2 area of British Columbia. As Darimont describes, “Over the course of four years, we identified prey remains in wolf droppings and carried out chemical analysis of shed wolf hair in order to determine what the wolves like to eat at various times of year.

For most of the year, the wolves tend to eat deer, as one would expect. During the autumn, however, salmon becomes available and the wolves shift their culinary preferences. According to the authors, “One might expect that wolves would move onto salmon only if their mainstay deer were in short supply. Our data show that this is not the case, salmon availability clearly outperformed deer availability in predicting wolves’ use of salmon.”

One of the explanations for wolfy fishing is pretty evident. It’s a heck of a lot safer. Salmon don’t deliver kicks to the head resulting in skull fractures or blows to the ribs but are just as tasty and full of fatty calories.  Those benefits alone are worth dining on fish. 

The authors explain that the wolves’ taste for fishy fare is likely based on safety, nutrition and energetics. Darimont said, “Selecting benign prey such as salmon makes sense from a safety point of view. 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”.

Just when we think we have wolves figured out, they surprise us.  Salmon anyone?


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: gray wolves/canis lupus, biodiversity

Tags: wolves fishing, salmon


Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 12:26 am  Comments (4)  
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