The wolf is a predator at the top of the food chain in its ecosystem; it is not the prey of any other species (at least the adults are not). These predators exist in all ecosystems and are large-size carnivores (white bears, lions, killer whales, pumas...). There are generally several rival species at this level in a same environment. Wolves for instance live in territories that can also be occupied by bears, pumas or tigers. Although they preferably avoid each other, it is relatively common that the species enter into interaction, generally adopting aggressive attitudes.
Wolves are opportunist carnivores that adapt their diet to the region they live in, to the season, to the kind and the density of the preys. They preferentially eat ungulates (in France: deer, roe deer, chamois and izards, mouflons, ibexes, boars...) but do not look down on smaller preys such as lagomorphs, rodents, birds, reptiles... The majority species of the wolf diet generally is the most abundant species in the area, provided that its predation is not too dangerous. Wolves can also feed, depending on the conditions, on carcasses, fruits or even rubbish.
A wolf needs to eat 17% of its weight in meat a day in average, that is 4 or 5 kg for a European wolf. And it does not hesitate to eat fruits, sources of vitamins, and grass that serves above all as a purgative.
Various studies led on the dietary habits of wolves seem to show that they preferably hunt wild ungulates. Nevertheless they also attack domestic herds in stockbreeding areas and especially small ruminants. The proportion of domestic preys in their diet is generally low but varies according to the season (more important in the mountain summer pastures) and to the region (it can become majority in zones from which wild ungulates have practically disappeared).
- Quoi De Neuf n°16 - p.12: Results of a study on the diet of wolves from excrements collected since 1993. It emerges that wolves easily adapt their diet to the availability of preys (in French)
- Thesis by N. Espuno: Study of seasonal energy needs of wolves (in French)
- Minutes of the seminar of the LIFE programme of restitution- p.43: Analysis of the diet of wolves (in French)