Skip to main content

'Rare' discovery: Wolf ate sibling's carcass, buried skull for later

This is the first time the Voyageurs Wolf Project has evidence of a wolf eating a pup from its own pack.
A wolf who lives in the Voyageurs National Parl ecosystem.

A wolf who lives in the Voyageurs National Parl ecosystem.

Scientists who study the wolves in northern Minnesota are sharing an "incredible and rare" observation they made this week. 

Warning: This story contains graphic images.

Members of the Voyageurs Wolf Project study the behavior of wolves in the Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota.

Earlier this week, Project Lead Tom Gable made a "fascinating observation" involving a wolf born in 2019, with a post on the project's Facebook page saying, "This is the first time we have ever seen anything quite like this in our area."

Gable discovered a wolf from the Wiyapka Lake Pack had scavenged the carcass of a wolf pup, born this year, and then buried the pup's head for later, he explained in a Facebook video posted Thursday.

While wolves are known to scavenge and cache things for later, what makes this observation "particularly intriguing" is the wolf who buried the pup skull shares the same mother as the dead pup – so the wolf scavenged the remains of his sibling, the project explained on Facebook Friday.

"We have not seen another instance like this before," the project said. 

Gable said he discovered the pup skull buried under a tree after noticing a large disturbed area in the snow with cracked bones and nearby wolf tracks, where the wolf ate the pup carcass.

He followed the wolf tracks about 40 meters, where he saw another disturbed area and digging under a tree – he used a stick and found the skull, which the wolf presumably buried so he could come back and snack on it later. 

Based on the condition of the skull, project members believe the pup, who was about 5-6 months old, died 1-2 weeks before its sibling fed on its carcass. They don't know why the pup died, but they believe it was likely due to starvation, which is the most common source of mortality for pups at this time of year. 

The wolf likely ate his sibling's carcass because "food is food, and wolves scavenge all sorts of dead and rotting animals," the project said, including other wolves. "When wolves find dead animals, they often eat them because it is free food. It appears that wolf pups can fit that bill as well."

The project provided further explanation in a comment on Facebook; 

"We have definitely documented wolves eating/scavenging carcasses of other dead wolves. What we have not seen is an adult wolf scavenging the remains of a pup from its own pack. We honestly have no idea what the motivation is for this or what triggers this kind of behavior. That said, wolves commonly eat dead and rotting carcasses they find in the woods and perhaps they view a wolf pup like this no differently when times are lean. Hard to know for sure though."

The Voyageurs Wolf Project also shared photos of the discovery on Facebook, saying "We know these photos might be off-putting for some but we think the observation is too interesting not to share, and ultimately, this is the way the natural world works."

As for the pup skull, project members collected it for their records and samples because they rarely get the opportunity to collect this type of data. 

Removing the skull won't impact the wolf's survival, the project notes, but they did carve off the flesh from the skull so the remaining meat is there for him if he wants to eat it.

Bring Me The News has reached out to the Voyageurs Wolf Project for more information. 

Follow Bring Me The News on News Break

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 5.46.37 PM

Video shows officers ended pursuit before fatal crash in Anoka

The crash occurred when the driver fled police during an attempted traffic stop in Coon Rapids.

Eli Hart

6-year-old Eli Hart identified as boy found dead in car trunk

The kindergartner's father was trying to get full custody of his son.


Boy found dead in trunk of car in Mound was kindergartner

"It is horrifying and difficult to process a tragedy of this magnitude, especially in our close-knit community," the superintendent wrote.

Minneapolis police

Man found yelling for help after being shot in Minneapolis

The shooting occurred on the 800 block of Elwood Avenue North at around 9:15 p.m.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.56.21 AM

Minneapolis North principal says she was fired, district says otherwise

“MPS requires schools to follow protocols in times like that and I did not,” Friestleben said.

Kris Richard Severin

Inmate who escaped Minnesota prison is captured

The inmate escaped Wednesday morning.

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.


wolf pups

Watch: 6 adorable wolf pups playing in northern MN

Researchers say the pups "appear to be doing well."

wolf collar video

Researchers share first-ever collar camera footage from wild wolf

The Voyageurs Wolf Project called it "fascinating," showing that wolves in northern Minnesota clearly know how to hunt fish.

Female wolf illegally killed by poachers within Voyageurs Wolf Project.

Female wolf illegally killed in Voyageurs National Park

Researchers for the project said this is the fourth collared wolf that has been illegally killed in the past two years by poachers.

giant bear

Video: 'THE fattest bear we have ever seen' spotted on MN trail camera

"This might be THE fattest bear we have ever seen in our area," researchers said.

voyageurs trail camera

Video: Voyageurs camera captures remarkable footage of wildlife trail

There were wolves, moose, bears, lynx, a fisher, marten and other animals.

wolf voyageurs snowmobile

Wolf exhibits 'extremely abnormal' behavior, approaches snowmobilers

The wolf got within 5 feet of a group of snowmobilers.