Nutrition of the Wolf is a book written by Michael and Debra Smith called “The Diet of the Wolf: The Nutrition of a Capable and Tolerable carnivore” (2021, Oxford University Press). This book has attracted a lot of attention because it suggests that the wolf is capable of managing and feeding on a diverse range of foods. I’m sure that most people think that wolves are only able to eat meat but they are much more capable of eating a wide variety of plant-based foods as well. Furthermore, this book goes a long way to explain why this happens.
We already know that carnivores are indeed omnivores and they can eat both plants and meat but it seems that the wolves tend to specialize in only one of them. They are clearly omnivores and they obtain all of their essential nutrients from plant matter such as leaves, buds, stems, fruits, and even insects. The wolf even has a specialized mouth for sucking insectivores’ juices while the herbivores obtain their nutrition from carbohydrates, fats, and starches.
However, the fact that these carnivores primarily feed on plant matter and not animal meat strongly suggests that the wolf does not need to obtain excess calories and fat to fuel its body and muscles as other herbivores do. In fact, carnivores don’t need a lot of additional energy to maintain their body functions. In contrast, herbivores (and others) need excessive amounts of fat, calories, and carbohydrates to perform at their maximum best. In addition to needing excessive amounts of energy, the carnivore (or other predator) must also be able to build and maintain a healthy immune system in order to successfully overcome the pathogens that cause infections within their bodies. Learn more information about What do wolves eat.
When it comes to the wolf’s nutrition, the authors do point out that there is some debate as to whether or not it is a true carnivore. Because the wolf lacks a true predator for the majority of its life (wolves generally prey on smaller animals), it must rely on scavenging to meet its nutritional needs. In fact, this is how a hungry wolf might become partially nutrition starved: because it might starve during the winter, it might raid the kill and eat some of the animal it finds. This is known as berry fasting, and this is often the only time that a wolf may survive solely on berries.
Herbivores, on the other hand, are capable of eating a wide variety of plant material because they possess lips that will secrete acids to abrade or eat through the outer layers of plants. Herbivores also have large appetites that could easily satiate their hunger with the appropriate fruits and vegetables. Therefore, plant-based carnivores (like deer and moose) are considered to be the most natural diet for wolves. Herbivores do, however, need to build muscle to store energy and build their strength. Herbivores may also have slightly higher protein requirements than carnivores because they do not have all the parts required to manufacture proteins like carnivores do.
Another form of nutrition of the wolf that is frequently overlooked is food supplementation. Carnivores can obtain certain nutrients from plant matter and may even be able to synthesize vitamin D from animal tissues. However, plant-based nutrition is difficult for a carnivore to consume because of its higher protein content. It has been suggested that providing plant foods to wolves would help them better digest the plant-based diets and increase their vitamin D levels.