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The most proficient beaver hunter

Wolf V083 in Winter 2023. V083 has turned a whitish-gray in his old age.

From May 1, 2020 to October 29, 2020, V083 killed a whopping 42 beavers, which is 14 more than any other wolf we have studied. Put another way, Wolf V083 was killing one beaver every 4.2 days. V083 killed 5 of these beavers with his mate Wolf V084, who is the breeding female of the Cranberry Bay Pack.

V083 is fascinating because he seemed to have an ability that most other wolves in our area simply do not have. While many wolves in our area eat beavers, none have been even close to as efficient at finding and killing beavers. 

Wolf V083 in Fall 2019. He looked much grayer at that time.

A typical wolf only kills a beaver every 14-21 days, which equates to an average of 10-15 beavers a summer. And this naturally leads to a question that has intrigued us for years: given the crazy amounts of beavers in our area, why don’t wolves kill and eat more of them?

The answer: beavers are not that easy to kill. When we started our work, the consensus in the scientific literature was that beavers were easy prey to kill. In fact there was almost the impression that beaver ponds were nature’s vending machines for wolves: show up to a pond, hit button A1, and a beaver would be dispensed.

But that is not the case. Beavers spend relatively little time on land, stay close to water, and where they will be on land on any given day is surprisingly hard to predict. So finding a beaver on land is likely quite challenging for wolves. Then there is the practical side of trying to kill a beaver once one is found. Beavers are football-shaped hunks of muscle with some crazy sharp teeth and incredible bite strength. 

Adult beavers can be >50-60 lbs, which is the size of many wolves in our area. And beavers don’t have a neck so how do you grab a beaver if you are a wolf?

The lower jaw of a wolf-killed beaver.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is that beavers do not need to fend off a wolf per se but rather just make it to deep water to avoid being killed. And generally beavers are never far from deep water when on land. Thus, it is likely a challenge to kill a beaver while preventing it from getting back to water. Thus beavers are not an easy meal, which is why V083’s beaver-killing abilities are so exceptional and fascinating to us.

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