Do Wolves Eat Their Prey Alive?


When hunting larger types of prey, wolves will eat their prey alive as they don’t have teeth that are long enough to strike the killing blow. However, when hunting smaller animals of prey like rodents, they will almost always kill their prey first before eating it.

As cruel as it may sound, wolves will eat its prey as it’s still alive. The first thing wolves will do to their prey is cripple it so it’s unable to move, allowing it to start feeding. It will sometimes wait for the prey to die before feeding on it, but in most cases, they will start eating right away.

When wolves go for larger animals of prey like moose, elk, or deer, they will cripple the prey first by biting into its hamstrings and legs so that it can’t move anymore. Then, the wolves will rip off chunks of meat from the animal until they are able to reach its intestines, which is the primary target for the wolves.

Do Wolves Eat Their Prey Alive

Why Do Wolves Eat Their Prey Alive?

Wolves will only eat their prey alive if they aren’t able to kill it first, which is usually the case when they go after larger animals of prey like elk or moose. The main reason for eating their prey alive is because they can’t kill it before eating it as their necks are too big for the wolf’s teeth.

Consequently, the wolf will have no other choice than to eat the animal piece by piece until it dies. However, this will only happen when there is no other choice possible, even though it might sound cruel.

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It’s more convenient for the wolf to eat the animal when it’s dead, so it will almost always kill the animal before eating it. The wolf will do that by biting into the jugular vein of the prey, which almost always guarantees an instant death of the animal in question. Sometimes, the wolf’s teeth might not be enough to reach the vein, though.

So when wolves don’t kill their prey before eating it, it mostly happens by chance. It’s mostly down to the fact that wolves simply can’t kill the prey and will have to resort to eating it alive in order for the animal to die.

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How Do Wolves Kill Their Prey?

When the wolf decides to kill their prey before eating it, it will kill it by biting into its neck or back, which will cause the animal to bleed out and eventually die.

However, a wolf might not be able to pierce through the neck of a larger moose or elk. This means that the wolf wouldn’t be able to kill off the animal first before eating it. An elk’s neck is far too thick for the wolves’ teeth to have any effects on it, although the wolf’s teeth can do significant damage to it.

When they can’t kill off their prey, wolves will bite them into their legs as they’re trying to catch up in the hope of inflicting enough damage to prevent the animal from moving.

Once the prey is unable to move, the wolf will either decide to kill it or to start eating it, which will often happen with larger animals of prey. When wolves go after smaller animals, they’ll almost always kill them first. For rodents, even a lighter blow will be enough to kill them.

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Sometimes, wolves will kill their prey by biting on its back and waiting for the animal to bleed out, or by biting into its snout, which can kill medium-sized animals of prey like deer or rabbits.

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Do Animals Feel Pain When Eaten Alive?

When animals get eaten alive by wolves, they will initially not feel much pain because the adrenaline numbs the pain, but they will feel pain until they die.

When the chase is on between the wolf and the prey, both animals get a rush of adrenaline through their veins, which causes both animals to tap into their survival instincts and their primal characteristics.

If the prey gets caught, it will usually not feel much pain initially because of this adrenaline. However, if the wolf doesn’t kill the animal quickly, the prey will be in a lot of pain, which can be difficult to imagine or watch.

This adrenaline can also be experienced by humans. If you remember the last time you injured yourself, you probably didn’t feel as much pain initially because of the adrenaline, although the pain gets stronger and stronger every minute.

A similar thing is happening also when animals get caught by predators and are getting eaten alive. After the initial burst of adrenaline, the pain for these animals of prey as they are getting eaten alive must be off the charts.

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Which Animals Does a Wolf Eat Alive?

A wolf will only eat animals alive if they can’t kill it first, which includes larger animals of prey like elk, moose, and other ungulates, as well as other larger animals that are caught by wolf packs.

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Wolves will always look to try and kill the animal first, which will make it easier for them to eat the animal if it’s still.

Smaller animals like rodents and smaller mammals will get killed first before they’re eaten. Wolves might eat rodents without killing it, although the death in that case is mostly quick because the wolf will kill the animal as it’s chewing on it.

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Final Thoughts

To conclude, wolves will eat animals of prey alive only when they can’t kill it first. This notion is hard to imagine for us humans, as we’ve lost the perception of what it must be like for the animals of prey when that happens.

Luckily for them, the initial rush of adrenaline will numb some of the pain as they’re getting eaten alive by wolves so they might not feel much pain at all before they’re dead.

Read Also: Do Wolves Eat Horses?

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>