This is a fishing wolf. Actually it is a captive gray wolf that lives at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. The pack members were born in captivity and can not be released back into the wild. Every effort is made to provide them with natural surroundings and as close to wild conditions as possible. To keep them engaged mentally they are provided with the ability to hunt their own food, but in a very special way.
The staff brings in a barrel full of live trout and releases them into the stream that runs through the wolves enclosure. The trout range in size from 6-7″ up to 12″ or so. They immediately spread throughout the stream and it becomes very difficult to find them.
As soon as the staff leaves the area the wolves begin the hunt. They start by walking along the bank and poking into the areas next to rocks and along the shore hoping to feel one with their paws. The fish are difficult to see and the wolves have to rely on touch. Their sense of smell doesn’t help them either and the hunt becomes a definite challenge for them.
When the light is right and the fish are moving the wolves can sometimes see where the fish are. They spend quite a while standing very still and watching until they get a line on where they think the fish is.
Then they do something I’ve never seen a wolf do in the wild. They plunge their heads completely under water hoping to catch the fish. I don’t know if they keep their eyes open while their heads are submerged or if they simply rely on luck to make contact. This happens over and over and they never seem to tire of it. Some of the wolves are better at this than others, keeping their heads under longer and sweeping it back and forth.
The downside of this method is you sometimes get water in your ears.
But you shake it off and go back to the hunt.
Then just when it looks like they will never catch one, they do. Success at last. Keeping a good grip on the thrashing fish this wolf makes his way out of the stream.
Catching one of the wily trout calls for a victory lap which also doubles as an opportunity to look for a place to eat his prize in peace.
Having found his favorite place in the sun he settles down to enjoy his hard won meal. Surprisingly or maybe not, as wolves tend to be polite to each other, there is very little poaching by the other wolves. If they catch it, it’s theirs and they are left to finish it in peace.
The others in the pack redouble their efforts now that they have seen how it’s done. This process will fill up the better part of a day until all or most of the wolves have caught their limit.