December 8, 2023

The top predator hunts the top predator – a spectrum of science

The top thief is chasing the top thief

Sea otters are actually not typical prey for wolves. But in Alaska, predators appear to have begun actively hunting otters, a behavior that experts were unaware of for a long time. In a post, Which has now been published in the specialized journal “Ecology”., a team led by Kelsey R. Griffin of the US National Park Service describes how wolves hunt and kill this unusual prey. They don’t just surprise otters on land. In one case noted by experts, a wolf positioned itself at the mouth of a small river and quickly lunged into the water, biting the tail of a passing otter and dragging it ashore to eat.

What’s striking is that both species are predators and occupy the top of the food web in their ecosystem – sea otters in the water, and wolves on land. In Alaska, top predators hunt other predators, which is an unusual phenomenon. In some cases, a lack of food may be the reason behind changed hunting behavior. As early as the beginning of 2023, experts reported that wolves on Pleasant Island had severely decimated the population of their main food source, deer, between 2015 and 2017. As a result, the animals switched their diet almost entirely to otters, as determined using fecal samples. However, researchers have only been able to determine this indirectly, and the incidents described by Griffin and her team are now the first time this behavior has been observed directly.

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