Italy is known as a home to fine food. Is it any wonder that even the wolves there are gourmets?
Unlike the deer-devouring wolves of northern Europe, the refined palate of the Italian wolf demands pork. Wild boar accounted for two-thirds of the diet of Italian wolves in a study published in Plos One. Roe deer made up most of the other one-third of the wolves’ diet.
For the past nine years, biologists have been sampling wolf feces in the Tuscany region of Italy. Wolves had been exterminated in Tuscany, but have recolonized the area.
Even in years of high roe deer population density, the canines consistently ate more ham than venison. They only switched to deer after boar had become scarce. The pork preference in Italy may be because of the smaller size of boars in the Mediterranean. The carnivores largely ignored domesticated animals in the area. The study’s authors believe this means wolves could be reintroduced to other areas of Europe without significantly affecting the livestock.
"Intriguingly, in other parts of Europe where red deer are also available, wolves appear to prefer this prey to wild boar, suggesting that they discriminate between different types of venison," said lead author, Miranda Davis, of Durham University.
Although wolves had a dietary preference for white meat in the study, no evidence suggests that the animals could select a proper white wine to accompany the meal, perhaps because of the abundance of high quality Tuscan red wines in their habitat.
A grey wolf in Europe (Retron, Wikimedia Commons)