You might have never thought about it before, but new research has come out to show that wolves (at least in North Minnesota) have been feeding berries to their wolf pups.
Documented in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, the new research suggests that wolves enjoy eating blueberries. What’s more, these blueberries are a valuable source of food for many wolves when the meat sources are scarce.
So, wolves do eat berries. But is it just blueberries, or are there other types that they enjoy? Let’s find out.
How we found out that wolves like blueberries
The story of how researching wolves and berries came about is an interesting one that started in the summer of 2017. Austin Homkes, who is a field biologist with Voyageurs Wolf Project, viewed a wolf in Beaver Meadow feeding her pups.
The five pups were licking around the mother’s mouth before she regurgitated food from her stomach onto the floor for her pups to eat. Don’t worry, this is the normal process of how wolves feed their pups!
Once the wolves had finished eating, Homkes got closer to see the rest of the food to inspect it. He saw chewed-up wild blueberries instead of the meat he was expecting to see.
This was the first time that a wolf feeding their pups berries was ever documented.
Why do wolves feed blueberries to their pups?
Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to communicate with wolves to understand exactly why they eat blueberries. It could be to do with the nutritional value, the taste, or perhaps they were the only food around and the wolves were desperate.
However, researchers have come to the conclusion that wolves eat berries to make the most of their energetic value.
Researchers have been aware for some time now that wolves consume berries and other types of fruit when they need to supplement their carnivorous diets.
In fact, researchers found that blueberries can make up 83% of the July diet for the eight wolf packs that they studied in the Voyageurs National Park.
Blueberries are low-calorie and also contain lots of antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and fiber. These benefits can support the immune system and give the wolf pups a good start in life.
The mortality rate of wolf pups is between 30 and 60%, sadly due to predators and environmental factors that can cause them to contract fatal diseases.
While blueberries won’t be able to protect pups from predators, they might be able to improve their immune systems enough to give them a better chance at surviving any diseases they might pick up.
However, the reason why wolves feed their pups blueberries might also simply be due to convenience or taste. Again, we’ll never know the true answer for this.
What other berries do wolves eat?
As we now know that wolves will eat blueberries and feed them to their young, this also suggests that they will eat other berries if they are nearby.
Wolves will eat plant matter that is close to them to supplement their diets, so any fruit that they can find will be consumed and fed back to their pups.
Wolves are primarily carnivorous and therefore will always choose meat sources over fruit and vegetables. However, when meat sources are scarce and there are a lot of mouths to feed, they will also supplement their diets with nuts, berries, and fruits.
Fruits such as apples and pears have been seen to be eaten by wolves, as well as berries such as raspberries and blueberries. Whatever berry is in the wolf’s habitat, it is likely that they will eat it.
Why do wolves eat berries?
So, we have looked at why wolves might feed blueberries to their pups, in order to boost their immune system and give them a better chance at reaching maturity.
But why do grown wolves continue to eat berries if they aren’t at such a high risk of contracting a fatal disease?
Many people speculate that it is due to the juices in berries. Instead of having to find water sources all the time, wolves can instead get moisture from other places such as fruit, berries, earthworms, and insects.
Depending on the climate that the wolf is living in, they might need a lot of moisture to keep them hydrated. If there aren’t a lot of water sources around them, berries might be their best chance of survival.
We hope that you learned something interesting about wolves and berries. It turns out that blueberries are very important to wolf pups and their immune system development, and other berries can be a good source of water content for both pups and adult wolves alike.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure why wolves eat berries. However, we can speculate that it is either down to their moisture needs or the convenience of them being close by.