Footage of Minnesota Wolf Carrying Dead Pup in Amniotic Sac Baffles Experts

Footage of a Minnesota wolf carrying a dead pup still in the amniotic sac has baffled wildlife experts.

The video was taken by the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a research project at the University of Minnesota. Researchers track wolves living in the Voyageurs National Park by setting up camera traps in remote areas. However, they have never seen footage quite like this before—according to the project, this is not normal behavior.

Thomas Gable, project lead at the Voyageurs Wolf Project, told Newsweek: "It certainly is interesting footage. I would say the observation is rare, at least for us, as we have never captured something like this on video before. There are several possible explanations... but hard to know what actually happened here."

Wolf carrying dead pup
The wolf was filmed carrying the dead pup across a snowy landscape. This is not normal behavior, the project said. Voyageurs Wolf Project

The project researchers outline some possible "far-fetched" explanations on a Facebook post however "none make perfect sense."

"If nothing else, it is enjoyable to think about the story behind such an intriguing observation. I suppose though that is studying wolves! There is much that goes on in the life of wolves that we do not ever get to see," Gable told Newsweek. "Instead, we get to see brief snippets of their lives from remote cameras or other observations from which we try to understand how they live and survive in wild environments. Challenging, frustrating, and satisfying all at the same time!"

The wolf observed carrying the dead pup, is a subordinate member of the Half-Moon Pack, the project said on a Facebook post. The Half-Moon Pack roams a western territory of the Voyageurs National Park.

At the moment, the Half-Moon Pack is only made up of three wolves; a breeding male, a breeding female, and the subordinate wolf in the video. A few days before this footage was captured, researchers noticed that the pack's breeding female was "clearly nursing, meaning she has already had pups."

"If the dead pup was part of the breeding female's litter, then the pup had been dead for a few days at least. The pup's body likely wouldn't have decomposed given the cold temperatures so this makes some sense. But we find it odd that the pup is still in the amniotic sac," the Facebook post said.

The researchers said it is possible the pup was stillborn, meaning the placenta was never removed. However, even in this scenario, it is mysterious that the other subordinate wolf decided to carry it around.

The other possibility is that the subordinate wolf gave birth to the dead pup. This, however, "would be quite unexpected." The researchers said it is "very rare" for two breeding females to be in one pack. If this is the case, it would be the first time such a case was observed in the area.

The researchers are sill unclear whether the wolf in the video is even a female, the Facebook post said. However, if it was indeed the dead pup's mother, "she could in theory" have given birth to the pup the same day the footage was taken.

"If this wolf was the mother, then who would the dad be? We won't even try to guess there!" it said. "We suppose it is technically possible this pup was from another pack. However, we think it very very very unlikely that a subordinate pack member trotted over to a neighboring pack's den and grabbed a pup still in the placenta and carried all the way back to their territory. But stranger things have happened!"

Correction 05/03/2022 3.55 a.m. ET: This article has been corrected to say the dead pup was still in the amniotic sac.