You probably saw the headlines a couple weeks ago when a pack of wolves near Jackson, Wyoming, killed 19 elk in a single night. The event was blown up by CNN, The Guardian, and others as an example of the threat re-introduced wolf populations in the American west present to game and livestock. But I knew there must be more to it than just big bad wolf fears, so I started digging.
“We’re not sure what triggers surplus killing,” regional wildlife supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department John Lund told USA Today, “In many cases, predators will kill with the intent to eat, but in this case, something triggered, and they went crazy, and just took down each elk, and moved onto the next.”
Why do wolves kill more animals than they can eat? I think I just found out. And it’s not because they’re crazy.
The first thing this event reminded me of was the Chinese movie Wolf Totem. The story follows two young men who are sent from Beijing to Mongolia to teach rural herders about communism. Those herders live peacefully with the wolves who occasionally prey on their livestock, accepting it as nature’s balance. At one point in the movie, the wolves drive a herd of elk into deep snow, killing them, but also preserving their carcasses for future use throughout the harsh winter. It got me wondering about the incident in Wyoming, and whether storing meat for future use could be a real behavior of wolves here in North America. Click here to read more.
Featured image by: John E Marriott Photography