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Field Journal: Gray Wolves of Yellowstone


Yellow Dave Wednesday, October 23, 1996

Pounds and pounds of meat
Reported by Deb Guernsey

When wolves first come to Yellowstone from Canada, we keep them in acclimation pens. This helps them adjust (or acclimate) to their new home so they won't try to return to Canada. Because wolves can't feed themselves while they live in these pens, we must take the food to them. Wolves eat a lot of food — 15 pounds per wolf per day!

One of the jobs of a volunteer is to carry this food to the pens. When the weather is nice, we do this by putting the meat in backpacks so we can carry it up to the wolves. In the winter, we use a team of two mules that pull a sled with the meat onboard. Both the mules and man who heads up the mule team work very hard to get the meat to the penned wolves. Physically, this is a very demanding job, but it is rewarding to be part of a team that has the responsibility of keeping the wolves healthy.

So, where do we get all of this food that we feed the wolves? First of all, a wolf's diet consists completely of meat. In the wild, wolves kill and eat animals such as elk, deer, and moose. These animals are called ungulates. In order to keep the wolves' diet healthy and consistent, we pick up road-killed animals like elk and deer. That meat feeds the wolves while they are in pens. When there are no road-killed animals to feed the wolves, we feed them processed meat just like the food they feed meat-eating animals at the zoo.

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