The interactions between apex predators and their prey are some of the most awesome and meaningful in nature – displays of strength, endurance, and a deep coevolutionary history. And there is perhaps no apex predator more impressive and important in its hunting – or more infamous, more misjudged – than the wolf. Because of wolves' habitat, speed, and general success at evading humans, researchers have faced great obstacles in studying their natural hunting behaviors. The first book to focus explicitly on wolf hunting of wild prey, Wolves on the Hunt seeks to remedy these gaps in our knowledge and understanding. Combining behavioral data, thousands of hours of original field observations, research in the literature, a wealth of illustrations, and – in the e-book edition and online – video segments, the authors create a compelling and complex picture of these hunters. The wolf is indeed an adept killer, able to take down prey much larger than itself. While adapted to hunt primarily hoofed animals, a wolf – or especially a pack of wolves – can kill individuals of just about any species. But even as wolves help drive the underlying rhythms of the ecosystems they inhabit, their evolutionary prowess comes at a cost: wolves spend one third of their time hunting – the most time-consuming of all wolf activities – and success at the hunt only comes through traveling long distances, persisting in the face of regular failure, detecting and taking advantage of deficiencies in the physical condition of individual prey, and through ceaseless trial and error, all while risking injury or death.
By describing and analyzing the behaviors wolves use to hunt and kill various wild prey – including deer, moose, caribou, elk, Dall sheep, mountain goats, bison, muskoxen, arctic hares, beavers, and others – Wolves on the Hunt provides a revelatory portrait of one of nature's greatest hunters.
Introduction: The Wolf as a Killing Machine
Chapter 1 - White-Tailed Deer
Chapter 2 - Moose
Chapter 3 - Caribou
Chapter 4 - Elk
Chapter 5 - Mountain Sheep and Goats
Chapter 6 - Bison
Chapter 7 - Musk Oxen
Chapter 8 - Miscellaneous Prey
Appendix: List of Scientific Names of Birds and Mammals Mentioned
Literature Cited Index
A Note on Accompanying Videos by Robert K. Landis
Videos of wolf-prey interactions, by Robert K. Landis, are available to readers of the print book at the following URL and with these password credentials:
User name: wolves
Readers of the ebook will find the videos embedded in the text
L. David Mech is a senior research scientist with the US Geological Survey and an adjunct professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. He is the author or editor of many books, including Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, coedited by
Luigi Boitani and published by the University of Chicago Press.
Douglas W. Smith is currently project leader for the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone National park. He is coauthor of The Wolves of Yellowstone.
Daniel R. MacNulty is an assistant professor of wildlife ecology at Utah State University.
"Across decades of writing about wolves and the science associated with their study, I've seldom encountered a more gripping opening to a natural history book [...] Wolves on the Hunt is an in-depth analysis of how wolves kill prey to survive. This new book could not come at a better time. Even though the year is 2015 there remains in the American West some pretty puritanical notions about alleged wolf behavior that have little basis in reality [...] Mech, considered the world's foremost wolf authority, and his colleagues deliver a hair-raising and at times grim narrative about how lobos stalk [...] No matter what lobo camp you're in, you'll find Wolves on the Hunt to be endlessly fascinating reading."
– Todd Wilkinson, Jackson Hole News & Guide
"In reading Wolves on the Hunt you will learn that death has shaped life for millions of years. You'll learn that no activity is more important to the wolf than predation; and although it's a tough and frustrating habit that often fails, wolves survive only because they refuse to give up. By shedding light on these and other important findings, Wolves on the Hunt will be incredibly valuable to conservation scientists and citizens alike who appreciate wild places and wild things. It's a great illustration of the constant battle between predator and prey and of dogged determination."
– Ted Turner, Chairman, Turner Endangered Species Fund
"This exhaustive account of wolves hunting and killing wild prey could only be compiled by the foremost wolf biologists of our day – Drs. Mech, Smith, and MacNulty. The easy-to-read book cites all the primary and secondary literature as well as many previously unpublished observations. Wolves on the Hunt will not only fascinate biologists and those teaching wildlife management but also the general public, including outdoor, environmental, and hunting groups. These detailed observations of predation let us imagine the struggles that our ancestors must have encountered as we competed with wolves to become the earth's supreme hunters of ungulates."
– Ed Bangs, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wolf Recovery Coordinator from 1988 to 2011
"Very detailed. Never before has the predatory behavior of any carnivore been presented in such depth. Wolves on the Hunt is a contribution not just to our knowledge of the wolf but to our understanding of predation in general. The authors, experts in wolf predatory behavior who are in the best position to interpret these data from a scientific perspective, review a great amount of information and add an impressive number of accounts of hunting events observed by very few people. Their interpretations of the appropriate literature are clear and elegant. Very well written, easy to read both for specialists and for the general public interested in wolves and wildlife, Wolves on the Hunt is unique."
– Juan Carlos Blanco, former adviser to the Ministry of the Environment on the Coordinated Plan for Wolf Conservation in Spain