26 Sep 2014

Wolves Do Not Eat Mice. Seriously.

Wolves do not eat mice. Seriously.
"But Lindsey," you protest, "I've seen Never Cry Wolf six times and those wolves ate mice."
Yeah. Never Cry Wolf? Not a documentary.
Adult wolves usually weigh between 55-130 pounds - at the top end of the range, small-adult-human-sized. So picture yourself taking a nap in a less dodgy part of New York's Central Park. You wake up to discover a single potato chip in front of your nose. Assuming it's hermetically sealed and therefore sanitary, you'll eat it, right? Who wouldn't?
But the kind person who left the chip there didn't leave the rest of the bag. So you go for a walk, hunting for more chips. Then you spot one up a tree, because in this extremely strained metaphor, the chips can climb trees. You, however, not that good at it. So you sweat and struggle and pant your way up the branches until you capture the second chip. Except eating it doesn't even dent your raging hunger, because you just burned more calories climbing than are actually contained in the chip.
Now imagine that you had to share that second chip with seven of your closest friends and relatives. How long will it be before you realize that a much better strategy is to knock over a hot dog cart and be done with it?
And that is why the preferred prey of wolves is ungulates - large, hoofed mammals like elk or caribou. Because if the pack actually manages to catch one, all of its members will not only get to eat, they'll be full for a couple of days.
Scientists call this optimal foraging theory. Simply put, it's the idea that animals will focus on food items that give them the most nutrition for the least amount of effort required to catch (or graze) that particular food. And it's why wolves - unless they are old, sick, or one runs right past their noses - don't eat mice.
Thus endeth the rant of the former wolf geneticist, who read a short story this week that mentioned the whole wolf/mice thing and spontaneously combusted due to rage (again). :)
What about you? Are there any bits of persistent misinformation that make you want to set your head on fire? Have you ever seen real live wolves hunting? Are you able to eat just one potato chip? Inquiring minds want to know!


Anonymous said...

If I had to I could eat only one potato chip. contrary to popular belief living in a highly developed urban area like NY is not living in the wild. Have you ever trekked in the wild carrying your own food on your back and/or hunting and fishing to stay alive?
Do you or have you ever owned a dog? They do not eat very much-even an active working dog especially if that is 100% protein. Have you ever been in the wild during a mouse plague or when food become short? They will run you over in your sleeping bag-so more like popcorn with the lid off rather than a potato chip in the wind. Potato chips?? Honestly. The comparative food value to a hunky protein rich rodent is laughable.
Anyway. Wolves do eat mice. Fish, lizards, birds and anything like crickets and grasshoppers if they have to. Gorging on fresh kill of large mammals that they have successful brought down in a pack hunt in which they can eat up to 20 kg at a sitting so as not to let things go to waste.
Their diet is variable to their conditions. The jury is still out on exactly what they do eat according to several recent scientific research articles.

But thank you. Due to the resurgence of the need to hunt these mammals for sport and the signing of legislation to make it possible to so I revisited the research myself. Which made me fine your site. What have you found that supports your view? Interested to read the articles you used to write your blog. "Wolves do not eat Mice Seriously." when studies of their scat prove that they do.Or does seriously mean that they do eat mice but laughing all the way.

Unknown said...

There are literally videos of wild wolves hunting mice though