Conservation Wildlife Management

Watch: Second Rare Trail Camera Footage Shows Gray Wolves Hunting a Beaver

"A super common event that is rarely observed"
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A wolf attacks a beaver in Voyageurs National Park.

Voyageurs Wolf Project / YouTube

After publishing the first reported video of its kind this summer, the Voyageurs Wolf Project posted a second trail camera video of a gray wolf attacking a beaver. In the latest video, a beaver can be seen coming ashore at 1:09 a.m. Four minutes later, a collared and ear-tagged gray wolf pounces on the beaver and can be heard huffing and grappling with it (mostly) offscreen. About 19 hours later, the wolf trots past the camera again, this time carrying a beaver head in its mouth.

Friday, July 14: Wolves and beavers occupy many of the same habitats in the North Woods, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the apex predators occasionally hunt and kill the large rodents. But according to researchers there, it’s rare to witness this—and even rarer to catch it on video. Which is why researchers with the Voyageurs Wolf Project were so excited to share the recent footage they captured inside Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park.

“A super-duper, amazingly lucky trail camera capture: we finally caught a wolf hunting a beaver on video!!” they wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “We cannot overstate how rare such observations are.”

Researchers captured the short video clip using a trail camera, which was placed near the top of a beaver dam. This is one of many trail cams they’ve installed throughout the park, and the group regularly shares videos of gray wolves, beavers, black bears, and other native wildlife.  

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This recently-published clip opens with the wolf running full tilt down the dam after a beaver. Another wolf follows close behind. The beaver doesn’t seem to notice its pursuers until the last second, but that’s all the time it needs to scramble off the dam and get away. The wolf tries biting down on the beaver’s tail but misses it by mere inches.

“In this instance the beaver was able to escape into deep water in a small pond below the dam,” the researchers point out. “But if there wasn’t that pond, the beaver would have been in trouble.”

Speaking to the rarity of the footage they captured, the researchers explained that, to their knowledge, the first recording of a wolf killing a beaver took place on a Quebec logging road in 2015. The Project’s researchers teamed up with the person who filmed that encounter to write a study that was later published in the scientific journal Ecosphere.

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In the years that followed, they actively sought photographs, videos, and other visual documentation of wolves hunting beavers. But besides the occasional trail camera photos that people sent in, which didn’t show much, the researchers haven’t seen any videos of a wolf hunting and killing a beaver since the 2015 incident.

“What is amazing is that wolves regularly hunt and kill beavers across a wide swath of North America, Europe and Asia and yet so few people have ever actually seen this happen,” they write. “In sum, a super common event that is rarely observed.”

Natalie Krebs contributed reporting.