You might know that the wolf is a top predator.
But do you know exactly what a wolf eats? In this lesson, we’ll review the definition of ‘food chain’ and describe specifically the specific food chains for two species of wolves.
What Is a Food Chain?
In my neighborhood, there are lots of dogs, dogs of all shapes and sizes. In fact, in going about my daily business, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see a pet owner walking their adorable dog. The neighborhood dogs play, they run; if they’re lucky they might even be able to take a nap while their owner reads a newspaper in the park. They’re pretty calm overall. However, no matter how calm they might be, dogs are actually closely related to wolves, wild canines that dominate their ecosystem.
And while dogs go home to a bowl of Kibble, wolves have a totally different diet and are on their own when it comes to making a meal. What do these wild beasts eat? How do they get their energy? These are the types of questions we’ll be answering today as we study the wolf food chain.To start, let’s review what a food chain is. A food chain is a diagram that shows the linear transfer of energy between species.
In other words, the food chain shows what eats what in a particular ecosystem. At the bottom of the food chain are the producers. Producers make their own food and provide energy for the rest of the food chain. Primary consumers eat the producers. Primary consumers are called herbivores, since they only eat plants. Secondary consumers eat primary consumers.
They are carnivores. And at the very top of the food chain are the tertiary consumers, or the top predators. These animals eat the primary and secondary consumers and keep the food chain in balance. Each new level on the food chain is called a trophic level.
The trophic levels of a food chain are shown below.
Wolves and Food Chains
There are two main species of wolves in the world: the red wolf and the gray wolf.
Variants of each type of wolf are called sub-species, and there are dozens of those. Wolves live in groups called packs, much like humans like to have a group of friends to socialize with. The wolves live together, helping each other corner prey. Although wolves only weigh slightly over 100 pounds, they can consume up to 20 pounds of meat in one sitting! For comparison, most humans eat only a pound of meat or less at a single meal! Let’s look more closely at what the two different species of wolves are eating.
Food Chain of a Red Wolf
Red wolves are an endangered species, meaning they are in danger of becoming extinct.
In the 1970s, there were only 14 red wolves left in the world! Since then, scientists have bred them in captivity and increased the population to several hundred. Red wolves live primarily in the Southeastern United States.Red wolves like to eat primary consumers such as rabbits, deer, and rodents, and secondary consumers such as raccoons.
Raccoons eat primary consumers like insects and small rodents, as well as producers like fruit and nuts. Small rodents and insects are primary consumers, so they eat producers like fruit, nuts and green vegetation.
Food Chain of a Gray Wolf
Gray wolves can be found in many habitats, from cold forests in the tundra to green forests, grasslands, and desert. In the United States, gray wolves live in Northern states from Oregon to Michigan, as well as colder climates like Alaska.
Gray wolves like to eat primary consumers such as grazers like deer, elk, bison, beavers, rabbits, and moose. They also eat secondary consumers like snakes and birds, if prey is sparse. Snakes eat small primary consumers like rabbits. Rabbits, in turn, eat producers like grass.
Importance and Threats
Wolves live at the top of the food chain as top predators.
These animals are also called keystone species because they are crucial to keeping the food chain in balance. They eat the primary and secondary consumers, keeping their populations in check. Without wolves, the primary and secondary consumers would grow out of control, consuming all the producers. Without the producers, the entire ecosystem would collapse!Gray wolves were hunted, poisoned, and trapped for many years because they were thought to be a nuisance to humans. However, in recent years, gray wolves have made a comeback and are no longer in danger. Red wolves, as discussed previously, are a highly endangered species.
Wolves are hunted by humans for their coats or by those who wish to protect livestock. Humans destroy their habitats in search of new land, which also increases the conflict between humans and wolves.
In summary, a food chain is a diagram that shows the linear transfer of energy between species in an ecosystem.
Producers make their own food and are the base of the food chain. Primary consumers eat producers, and secondary consumers eat primary consumers. Tertiary consumers are the top predators in the food chain.Wolves are large canines that are keystone species in their ecosystem. Red wolves are highly endangered and eat secondary consumers, like raccoons, as well as primary consumers like deer, elk and bison.
The primary consumers eat producers like grass and small plants. Gray wolves have a similar diet but live in more Northern environments. They eat grazing animals and sometimes secondary consumers like snakes or birds. The secondary consumers eat primary consumers like rabbits, which eat the producers. Wolves are in danger from illegal hunting for their coats and to keep them away from livestock.
Humans are also encroaching on their habitats to make room for farming and buildings.