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Do Bears Eat Wolves & Vice Versa?

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Bears do not usually eat wolves, but there are cases where it happens, such as in food shortages, or when scavenging. The two animals usually keep their distance though.

Bears eat both meat and plants and are hence known as omnivores. Some bears are apex predators and are hence only attacked by other apex predators.

One of these includes wolves.

Wolves and bears inhabit many of the same places and do cross paths every once in a while.

But do bears prey on wolves? Or do wolves prey on bears? And what really happens when they cross paths?

Those are some of the questions we’ll be tackling today.

Do Bears Eat Wolves?

Bears usually don’t eat wolves, but may do so if there’s no other food around, or if they pass by dead wolves. They don’t target wolves though, as they prefer to feed on smaller mammals, fish, ungulates, and plants. 

Bears typically don’t eat wolf meat, as they prefer to eat meat from other animals, including:

  • Ungulates
  • Fish
  • Small mammals
  • Rodents
  • Birds
  • Insects

One exception is the grizzly bear, who may eat wolf meat at times. Grizzlies are large apex predators and they can consume most animals in their habitat if need be.

When a bear does eat wolves, they typically don’t kill them but feed on dead carcasses. Bears are aware that wolves are dangerous, and very skilled hunters, and hence don’t want to risk their own life.

bear fishing on a river

What Do Bears Eat?

Bears are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat. They primarily feed on plants, as these make up 60-90% of their diet. They do eat meat as well, but they usually feed on small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, fish, or ungulates.

Different species also have different feeding habits. For example, black bears are more likely to consume insects and fruits than grizzly bears.

Related: What do bears eat?

Do Bears Hunt Wolves?

No, bears typically don’t hunt wolves. They hunt smaller mammals, fish, or ungulates. Bears are also scavengers, and won’t hesitate to feed on a dead animal if they come by one.

While bears do have the capability to kill wolves, it is uncommon for them to do so. 

On the other hand, wolves may also prey on young or weak bears, though this is also uncommon.

The majority of wolf deaths related to bear attacks occur due to defensive fighting between the two species. Both are territorial, which can result in some fighting.

Studies show that most encounters and interactions between wolves and bears are non-lethal, meaning none of them dies. Young bears are however more prone to harassment from wolves.[1]

Can a Bear Catch a Wolf?

Sometimes, an interaction between bears and wolves results in a chase. Here, the animals will chase each other, and we can hence clearly see if bears can catch wolves.

Generally speaking, bears are slower than wolves. They can’t run as fast, and they can’t run for as long. Hence, wolves can quite easily escape a bear, if it attacks them.

Related: Wolves vs. Bear

Do Bears Attack Wolves?

Bears typically don’t attack wolves, unless they feel threatened, provoked, or harrassed[2]. If a wolfpack is preying on the cubs, a mother will defend itself and her cubs fiercely.

The grizzly bear is the only species of bear known to regularly attack adult wolves, though polar bears have been documented killing gray wolves in the past. 

This generally occurs when a wolf pack is preying on cubs or when there is competition for food between the two predators. 

Wolves have often been recorded harassing young bears, as they’re much easier targets than the large adults.

Related: What animals eat wolves?

wolf hunting in autumn forest

How Bears Attack

When bears attack, they bite their prey in the back or neck, breaking their spine or neck. They also use their paws and claws. 

This method of attack is very different from wolves, who never use their claws when killing, but stick to using their powerful bite.

Bears can kill their prey with a single bite if it’s small enough. Bigger prey, left by bears after they’ve fed on it, is typically full of claw marks, bite marks, and are clearly mauled. 

Do Wolves Eat Bears?

Yes, wolves do occasionally eat bears, though they won’t target very large bears. They typically prey on smaller bears (cubs), as they’re easier to kill.

While wolves are aware of bears’ big size and killing capabilities, they still tempt fate when preying on the cubs.

Wolf packs do hunt grizzlies, though this is quite rare and considered abnormal behavior by experts around the world. The pack will only do so when they aren’t able to find an adequate number of food sources elsewhere. 

They will also only hunt bears if they’re enough. Wolves hunt in packs, and hence have greater strength in numbers. 

One study shows how a group of 5 wolves chose to back away from a single brown bear, which tells us how dangerous bears are.[3]

Related: What eats bears?

bear hunting in the field

Are Bears Afraid of Wolves?

Bears are scared of wolves, and vice versa. It depends on the size of the bear, and the size of the wolf pack. A large bear won’t be afraid of a single wolf but will keep its distance from a pack of 8 wolves.

Both wolves and bears are highly intelligent animals. Hence, they know when to back away, and when to attack.

If a wolfpack of 8 to 10 members is scouting for food, there are very few animals that can scare them away.

Similarly, a 450 pound Grizzly bear is scared of very few things, except perhaps a wolf pack of 10.

What Bears Eat Wolves?

As with all animals, there is a big difference between species. Some species are more aggressive, such as grizzly bears, while others are shyer and less dominant, such as a black bear.

It all depends on their instincts, as well as their physical adaptations.

Do Grizzly Bears Eat Wolves?

Grizzlies are among the largest bears and may eat wolf meat if they come across it[4]. However, they typically don’t hunt wolves. Grizzly bears will usually only kill wolves when they’re threatened or provoked.

They do track wolves and will scavenge their kills.

brown bear in the wild with short tail at the back

Do Black Bears Eat Wolves?

Black bears don’t eat wolves. Their diet is more plant-based, as only 5-10% of their diet is made up of meat. Most of that is insects, fish, and smaller mammals. 

The black bear, as well as the brown bear, do eat wolf meat on occasion. They do not hunt them but scavenge carcasses left by other predators.

Black bears are opportunistic feeders; meaning they will take advantage of food resources when available in order to save energy for other activities.

black bear close up

Do Polar Bears Eat Wolves?

Polar bears are the most carnivorous of all bears, yet they typically don’t eat wolves. They tend to eat seals, walruses, deer, elk, and fish. 

Occasionally a polar bear may feed on a wolf carcass but they do not actively prey on them. The two animals don’t cross paths often.

polar bear eating

Do Panda Bears Eat Wolves?

No, pandas are herbivores, feeding on bamboo and vegetables exclusively[5]. They’re the only species of bear that doesn’t eat meat.

Even though they don’t eat meat, panda bears can still be aggressive and dangerous.

panda bear eating bamboo

Conclusion

Bears do not typically prey on wolves, though there have been cases of bears eating wolf meat. Most bears prefer to feed on small mammals, fish, ungulates, and plants. 

Grizzlies are the exception; they are more inclined to eat wolves as they are apex predators

While it is possible for a bear to kill and eat a wolf, it is not common behavior. Wolves are not a major component of the average bear’s diet.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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