When Striking Out on Dinner, Wolves Seen Bringing Back Gifts for Their Pups Instead

Written by Kellianne Matthews
Updated: September 1, 2023
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Wolves live in familial packs, but how much love and devotion do they express to one another? A video shared by Yellowstone biologists demonstrates just how much adult wolves care for their young, as they bring back gifts for their pups. When the adult wolves of Mollie’s pack leave the den to hunt, they are not always successful. However, the clever canines didn’t come back empty-handed. In the absence of food, these ingenious animals seek out alternative treasures for their adoring young. 

In the montage, wolf after wolf carries a treat far more intriguing than food in their mouths — “toys” for their precious pups! Unable to bring back food for the anxiously awaiting pups, the adult wolves instead bring back branches, bark, bones, and even antlers for them to play with! Beyond the simple act of survival, these wolves demonstrate a depth of love and dedication that permeates their community, revealing the familial bonds and nurturing instincts of these incredible animals.

A family of grey wolves in the forest.

Wolf packs consist of strict hierarchies and strong familial bonds.

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©AB Photographie/Shutterstock.com

Is It Normal for Wolves to Bring “Toys” Home for Their Pups?

Wolves are formidable predators and can be dangerous, but they have a soft spot when it comes to their pups. In general, only the alpha male and female wolves have a litter of wolf pups each year. However, everyone in the pack acts as adoring parents and contributes to the care of the new pups. In fact, packs commonly adopt abandoned wolf pups — even pups from other packs that are not related to them!

The female alpha gives birth to an average of four to six pups around May or June and nurses them for about eight weeks. As they get older, the wolf pups begin spending time with other members of the pack, who often bring them food and other gifts. Each wolf in the pack happily takes their turn bringing back food for the puppies, babysitting, protecting, and playing with them. Playing is especially important, and it is a beloved pastime. Adult wolves commonly bring back “toys” to play with in the form of bones, sticks, rocks, feathers, and even human objects when available.  

In many ways, play serves as the glue that holds a wolf pack together. In fact, according to wildlife scientist Gordon Haber in his book, Among Wolves, “If a half hour passes without at least some play, it is an unusual half hour in the daily routine of a wolf family…” Play helps young pups build confidence and learn to navigate both the physical and social world of the pack, reinforcing bonds between pack members.

wolf with a cute and playful wolf cub on the head.

Adult members of a pack are devoted caregivers to pups, even if they are not biologically related to them.

©Thomas Marx/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © COULANGES/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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