Scientists have revealed what is likely to be the first-ever footage of a single wolf hunting and killing a seal.
According to a paper published last month, scientists observing wolves in Katmai National Park in Alaska, discovered that the animals have developed a taste for a new kind of prey: marine mammals.
In the footage, that was uncovered by IFLScience, the team of researchers filmed a single male wolf hunting a harbor seal — eventually dragging the prey onto a sandbar and eating the tail.
“It is likely that our footage is the first time a single wolf has been filmed hunting and killing a seal,” National Park Service biologist and lead author of a paper Kelsey Griffin tells IFLScience.
According to the scientists, the wolf was positioned near the mouth of a creek when it charged into the water, grabbing the tail of the harbor seal.
The wolf continued to tear into the flesh of the seal’s tail and after an approximate 30-minute struggle, the seal appeared to tire, straining to lift its head above water. The wolf then dragged the seal onto the exposed sandbar and began to tear into the existing wound and consume the tail.
Wolves have previously been observed consuming sea otter carcasses, but how they obtain these and the frequency of scavenging versus hunting marine prey is largely unknown. The team of scientists believe that this footage is the first time that this behavior has been documented.
In the paper, that was published in the Ecology journal, the scientists say they also observed wolves carrying sea otter carcasses on three separate days in 2016, 2018, and 2019. In 2021, the researchers also watched three wolves hunt and eat an adult sea otter on an island during a low tide.
The research project originated in 2016 when Griffin and some of her colleagues stopped for lunch on the beach during a day of conducting marine debris and bird mortality surveys at Katmai National Park.
“Seemingly out of nowhere, we are sitting there, we just see this white wolf carrying an otter just trotting by,” Griffin tells Oregon State University Today. “I was just blown away. I have never seen anything like that before.
“Then I was asking my co-workers: ‘Has anyone seen this before? Do wolves often eat sea otters?’ I was just asking a bunch of questions about the wolves and it just seemed like there was not a whole lot of information about them.”
The full paper can be read here.
Image credits: All photos sourced via “Wolves on the Katmai coast hunt sea otters and harbor seals” by Kelsey R.Griffin in Ecology journal .