Cat vs mouse might be the most notorious battle pairing in the animal kingdom, but as it turns out, dogs occasionally test their skills against the evasive rodents as well. 


Captured by a remote camera-trap in southeast Norway and shared on Facebook by the IUCN Canid Specialist Group, this clip gives us a rare glimpse of an unusual hunt: a wolf on the prowl for mice.

Rodents aren't usually on the menu for wolves, a species that prefers dining on bigger, hoofed prey like deer, elk and bison. But when the bigger meal tickets aren’t available, wolves will eat just about anything they can get their paws on, including rabbits, foxes, beavers, rodents, and even insects like grasshoppers.

While we admit wolves look a bit more intimidating while taking down elk in a carefully choreographed hunt with the support from a large pack, there’s something kind of adorable about these apex predators hopping about in the grass like Peter Rabbit. We're used to seeing this springy manoeuvre in smaller canids like foxes.

Sadly, the two mice-munching canines featured in the short clip above make up about 6,6% of the total estimated wolf population in Norway, which tops out at just 30 individuals (excluding another 50 or so that sometimes pop in to visit from neighbouring Sweden). Once abundant across much of the country, years of unregulated trapping and hunting has resulted in a massive decline in wolf numbers in Norway. By the time the species was granted protected status in 1973, wolves were almost entirely wiped out in the region.

Current wolf populations in Norway are restricted to a 'wolf zone' that extends from Rendalen in the north to Aremark in the south. Careful regulation keeps the numbers low and any wolf that strays too far from the zone will likely be shot. These tight regulations have left some experts questioning how wild these wolves really are. 

"Many people are concerned with keeping the wolf wild, natural and authentic," explains Håkon B. Stokland at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture. "The challenge for the modern management programme is that detailed monitoring and management jeopardize the status of 'the new Norwegian wolf' as wild and authentic - and that people eventually won't see the value of preserving the wolf."

Historically blamed for livestock losses and feared as a threat by local people, wolves in Norway have a bad rep. And a thriving hunting culture doesn't make things any easier for the struggling species. Just last year, when the Norwegian government decided to sell licences to destroy 16 of their wolves, 11,571 people registered - that's a ratio of 723 hunters per wolf. Although attitudes are slowly shifting, it's a tough road ahead, and it may be some time before the country's wolves can once again claim their spot near the top of the food chain.