It's not always the size of the dog in the fight, but brawn certainly played a part during this battle between a moose and a wolf. The unbelievable predation attempt was filmed in the wilds of northern Ontario in Canada recently, and it's about as tense as they come. 

According to drone pilot and YouTuber Dan Nystedt, who caught this amazing encounter on film near his camp on the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, the wolf's sudden appearance was a surprise. 

"I captured this footage by happenstance while shooting some scenics," he wrote on YouTube. "I was excited by the moose sighting, but as I was about to leave, [the] unexpected happened."

Attempting a kill of this nature is a high-risk move for any wolf: in some cases, it can take the efforts of multiple pack members just to bring down an elk – and moose outweigh their smaller ungulate kin by as much as 800 pounds (over 350kg). For this reason, calves are taken much more frequently than adult moose, though ambitious hunts like this one are not unheard of. 

If you watch the closing seconds of Nystedt's footage closely, you'll notice that a second wolf eventually crosses paths with the moose's attacker. It's very likely that this animal is the missing piece of this predation puzzle, but we can interpret its presence in different ways. On the one hand, it's possible that our "lone wolf" wasn't really alone after all: if other pack members were lurking nearby, they may have been "testing" the moose long before Nystedt started filming. This might explain why the hoofed quarry was in the water, facing the treeline, at the start of the video.  

The second possibility is that the solo hunter was backtracking the efforts of another – larger – pack. In his book, "Wolves on the Hunt", wolf behaviour specialist Dr Dave Mech discusses several wolf-on-moose predations that involved a similar tactic. He explains that single wolves sometimes follow in the footsteps of other packs in the hope of picking off their leftovers. Even if a hunt is ultimately forfeited, a large pack can leave potential prey injured and exhausted – and that means easier pickings for any predator who attempts a second round.

"It's not unusual," Mech told us. "In fact, single wolves occasionally kill not only moose but also bison and muskoxen." 

Meanwhile, some commenters have suggested that this daring hunt was a case of a young wolf biting off more than it could chew. Predatory inexperience is certainly a factor in some failed pursuits: just last month, a Canadian wolf found itself quite literally in over its head when it chased a deer into a lake in Alberta. But neither the watery setting nor the vigorous defences of a large moose were enough to deter the wolf in Nystedt's footage.

"For a single wolf to be successful, it must be an older, experienced individual, and the prey must be one that is especially vulnerable, that is, old, sick, weak or diseased," Mech explained. "Sometimes it takes a single wolf, or even a pack, several hours or days to finally [take] down the prey animal. In this case, the wolf certainly wounded the moose, and eventually might find it in weaker shape or even dead."

Could extreme hunger be a possible explanation for the wolf's daring display, as several online commenters have suggested? The wolf in Nystedt's video appears quite healthy and strong, judging by the ferocity of its fight. What's more, ungulates and small mammals are still abundant in Canada at this time of year, so we suspect starvation wasn't the driving factor here. 

Regardless of what prompted the hunt, Nystedt's clip offers a phenomenal glimpse at the endurance of grey wolves and moose alike. (In the days since the video was posted online, Nystedt has faced criticism for flying his drone so close to the animals, with some viewers even accusing him of altering the outcome of the hunt. The wolf does seem to be aware of the drone's presence overhead, but it was likely the moose's move towards deeper water – not the flying tech – that sent the predator back to dry land. At least temporarily.)



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