The Long Dark – A Guide to Wolves

A needlessly long guide to dealing with, avoiding, or killing wolves in The Long Dark.

Other The Long Dark Guides:

Wolf Behaviour

Wolves in The Long Dark have three basic ‘levels of interest’ in the player.

  • Roaming
  • Searching
  • Stalking
  • Attacking


In roaming mode, wolves will wander around randomly within their territory. They have a chance of spawning inside this territory, and will not spawn outside of it. They will not leave their territory unless they detect a player. Many places will never spawn wolves. This means that a player can learn the likely usual locations of wolves through observation. During this phase, a wolf can be avoided.


When the wolf detects a player through direct line of sight, they usually move straight to stalking the player. However, if the detect the player through smell or noise, they may enter a searching phase. In this mode, the wolf does not see the player, but knows they are present, and will walk towards the location where it heard or smelt them last. The wolf will usually howl when it enters this phase. Once it sees the player it will enter stalking mode. During this phase, the wolf can be lost.


When a wolf sees a player, it will start to walk slowly towards the player. In this stalking mode, the wolf will follow the player for long distances, even outside of the wolf’s territory. The wolf will not attack the player if the player continues walking slowly away from the wolf, except in several extenuating circumstances. During this phase, a wolf can be scared off, lost, killed, ran from, or distracted.


When a wolf gets close enough to a player it will run towards the player and attack them. This will start a minigame in which the player must fight the wolf. The wolf will also move straight into attacking if it sees the player while it is eating an animal it has killed. This can happen from a reasonably large distance. Once a wolf has entered the attacking phase, it can not be scared, avoided, or lost. During this phase, a wolf can be killed, or ran from.

Wolf Detection

There are three ways that a wolf can detect the player:

  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Sound


When a player enters the line of sight of a wolf, it will move straight into stalking mode, and start to follow the player. Wolves see in a cone shape in front of themselves. Wolves can see a reasonably long distance on a clear day. Blizzards and fog affect the vision of wolves as well as the player.


If a player is out of the wolf’s line of sight, but has something in their inventory which smells, the wolf may detect them, and move into a searching mode. The wolf is not stalking the player yet, but is moving towards where it thinks they are. The more scent markers the player has in the top middle of their HUD, the further the wolf can detect the player from. The wind will also blow your scent towards the wolf.


The wolf may also hear the player moving, and search for them. This effect is multiplied the more equipment the player is carrying, and by the speed of movement (ie. running is louder than walking, and walking is louder than crouching). This usually only happens at reasonably close range, and is often the reason for wolves behind buildings or over ridges approaching the player.

Wolf Tactics

There are a wide variety of tactics to deal with wolves, and I will list them here with the easiest first. That may be a point of argument, but I consider this a kind of priority list of how to make your encounters with wolves safer, to the point of virtually never having to deal with them at all.

Wolf Tactics: Avoidance

Phases: Roaming.

The best way to deal with a wolf is to go absolutely nowhere near it. This means keeping a good eye on your surroundings while travelling, or knowing wolf territories well. It means going up on top of hills and taking a look around, spotting where the wolves are, and planning accordingly. It means playing it safe and slow.

Here are some tips for avoiding wolves:

  • If you see a wolf ahead of you, consider just not going where you wanted to go. Is there something else you could do that day?
  • If you have to go past the wolf, is there another route to get there?
  • If there isn’t another route, then give the wolf a wide berth, and try not to be in front of it. If you have to pass in front of it, then crouch and move slowly. 
  • Don’t sprint. Ever. Just don’t do it. Especially if you’re in an area where you can’t see your surroundings. There could be a wolf just over the ridge, and it will hear you.
  • Avoid having scent markers at all if possible. If you kill something, try and butcher and cook it where you killed it if the weather allows. If it doesn’t, consider butchering it another time.
  • If you do have scent markers, consider passing wolves downwind. They will have a harder time detecting you.

Wolf Tactics: Losing

Phases: Searching, Stalking.

So you’ve heard that howl, and those tiny feet are pattering closer? Or even worse, you’re actively being stalked? First things first, don’t panic. The number one mistake new players make with wolves in this game is running away from them. The only time you should ever run from a wolf is if you are 10 feet from a door and the wolf is not very close. Why is that? Because as soon as you run from a wolf it will go straight into attack mode. You don’t want that.

Here are some tips for losing wolves:

  • Walk slowly away from the wolf. Make sure to look back now and then to keep track of what it is doing.
  • Go around corners, behind buildings, down steep slopes or through forests. Try to lose line of sight as you walk. If a wolf loses line of sight on you for long enough, they will give up the chase.
  • Start heading towards a building or vehicle immediately. Still just walking, but figure out where the last building you saw was, and get there. If you haven’t lost the wolf by the time you get there, go inside and pass time. The wolf should be gone. 

One important thing to be aware of when trying to lose a wolf is your weight. Wolves will slowly follow you as you walk, but if you are very overweight they may walk faster than you. If they are walking faster than you, they may eventually get close enough to enter attack mode. Consider dropping some weight and picking it up later.

Also bear in mind that if a wolf gets too far behind, but is still stalking you, it will run a short distance to catch up. Don’t confuse this with an attack and start running. Keep your cool.

It should also be noted that if the player is injured, they will probably be unable to lose the wolf except over short distances. The wolf views injuries as a sign of weakness, and will evenutally attack an injured player even if they keep their distance and walk away.

Wolf Tactics: Scaring Off

Phases: Stalking.

So now you’re being stalked by a wolf, but you can’t lose it, and you have no idea where the next building is? The wolf is getting closer and you’re getting worried? Frankly, my advice is still ‘keep walking’. However, if you really want to get that little monster off your tail, then it’s time to scare it off. There are a few different ways to do this in game, and I’ll cover them from easiest to hardest.

  • Make a fire. Sure the wolf is walking towards you, but it’s not attacking yet. Even if you stop and stand still, you still have four or five seconds maybe before the wolf attacks. Number 4 on your keyboard starts a fire (check your own controls). Place it and start lighting it. Even the process of lighting it will scare the wolf and it will run off. You don’t even have to finish lighting it once the wolf runs. This is probably the most consistent method. The down side is that you waste a match and tinder.
  • Shoot at it. Yes I said at it. If you can hit it then great, problem solved. Even if you don’t, any weapon that makes a noise will scare it off. The rifle or the distress pistol work here. If you actually want to hit it, I’ll cover that in the ‘Killing It’ section.
  • Flares and torches. These work in basically the same way. Light the flare or torch and keep walking. Turn around and face the wolf and walk backwards. Use right-click to throw the torch or flare at the wolf. I put this last because it is very inconsistent, and likely to get you killed without practise. I never do this unless it’s literally my only option. 

Wolf Tactics: Distracting

Phases: Searching, Stalking.

No flares on hand? Out of matches? Still can’t lose that wolf? Okay, how about some distraction techniques. The wolf doesn’t necessarily want to eat you, it just wants food. So give it some. There are two methods for distracting wolves with food, one of which is easy, and one of which you might pull off once in a lifetime by pure luck. Lets look at both.


Pressing the 3 (check your own controls) button on your keyboard will drop a decoy. This will by default be the strongest smelling piece of food in your inventory. This will usually be a piece of meat if you are carrying any. You need to do this before the wolf enters attack mode, or it will ignore it. Simply press 3, turn around, and back away from the food, keeping it between you and the wolf. The wolf will begin walking towards the food, and then start eating it. The time it spends eating will depend on the size of the piece of food. During this time you should be long gone. Just walk away while it eats.

Not all food will interest the wolf. Cans and jars for instance will be ignored because the wolf cannot eat them. The player should always try to have something that will work as bait in their inventory. A common technique is to partially eat a piece of meat. If you hit escape while eating, your character will stop eating, and leave some of the food. By carefully eating a little and then escaping, the player can create a small piece of meat of a size of their choosing. Bear in mind that the smaller the piece is, the less time you will have to escape. I use pieces of 0.05kg for distracting wolves for a few seconds while I kill them, but that would not be enough to get away. Experiment with it. Losing a kilo of meat is still better than dying.

Animal Baiting

I’m not going to say much about this, since it’s tough to do, but I will simply mention it as a possibility. If you are very good with positioning you can skirt round some rabbits or deer and if you manage to get one between yourself and the wolf, it might attack the animal and give you time to escape. I really wouldn’t try this unless you’re a masochist.

Wolf Tactics: Killing

Phases: Stalking, Attacking.

If you are cornered, and really have no other choice, the last option you have is killing the wolf. Of course, in the later game, with good equipment and some experience, you might find killing wolves trivial. However at first it can be daunting, and dangerous. There are really only two methods to kill a wolf, but they both have various tactics and considerations that can make them easier or harder.


Shooting a wolf is the preferred way to kill it if you have to. It takes some practise, but it’s actually easier to do when you are being stalked, since the wolf is usually moving in a straight line towards you, and therefore lining up with your sights. Stop, turn around, crouch (for more stability with your weapon) and shoot it between the eyes. A headshot should kill the wolf on the spot. A body shot will either kill it, or send it running off bleeding. Even a miss will make it run away.

There are a couple of ways to make this easier on yourself, and the most usual involves a decoy. Using the decoy keeps the wolf busy so you can take your time lining it up.

Simply drop your decoy, keep walking for a few paces, and then crouch. You should notice when the wolf picks up the scent of the decoy and starts walking towards it. You can now take your time lining up the wolf’s head. Alternatively, if the decoy is a lot of meat, then just wait until the wolf is eating and really take your time to fire. This does take some practise, so expect to fail the first few times.

The second method is similar, and is usually used when actively hunting wolves that have not yet detected the player, not when currently being stalked. If the player chases a deer or rabbit into the wolf’s area, the wolf should hunt and kill it, and then start eating it. This allows the player to crouch and approach the wolf, firing when at a comfortable distance. Be careful of getting too close as if a wolf detects you while it is eating it will attack instantly.

It should be noted that a player’s aim is affected by tiredness, and by low condition. Therefore if a player is not in good shape, attempting this may be a bad idea.


Struggling is what the game calls it when a wolf attacks you and you have to fight it off. However you don’t have to wait for them to do it for you. If you have decided to fight, just head towards the wolf and get it started quicker. You will be presented with a screen where you can hopefully pick a weapon, and then once you’ve done that you can bash a button quickly to fight the wolf off. I highly suggest not doing this until you havea few more clothing items and some sort of weapon. The hunting knife is ideal.

Once the fight is over, several things will happen:

  • If your condition was low, and your clothing does not offer much protection, you may die. If you had low condition and bad clothing you probably shouldn’t have been fighting wolves.
  • If you survive, you will have lost some condition, and perhaps have some afflictions (bleeding, sprained wrist, etc…).
  • The wolf will run away yelping. Be careful. It will run around for a while, but it could run in your direction, and it it does it may attack you again.
  • Depending on the weapon used, the wolf may die. Sharp weapons are most likely to kill it (I think the knife has a 100% chance). Blunt weapons will finish the fight quicker, which usually means less damage to you, but will probably not kill the wolf. 

The main thing to check after a wolf attack is if you are bleeding. Bleeding not only makes you lose condition very quickly, but it gives you scent markers which may attract more wolves. Bandage quickly, and then move on. If you used a sharp weapon, the wolf will bleed out. You can come back later to harvest it if you like, but you’re probably in a bad state now, so it’s probably better to get healed up first. Plus the wolf takes an hour or so to die anyway.

Wolf Tactics: Running

I gave this a section, but only to discuss a couple of minor uses of this tactic. Really you should never run from a wolf, or have any need to. The only time I would ever do so is if I come out of a house, walk a little way, and then hear a bark and all of a sudden a wolf is running at me. In that circumstance, I’m already being attacked and the house is close, it might be worth running and trying to get inside. 99 times out of 100 though, if you have to run, you’re probably not making it.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Wolves howl when they detect the player, but they also sometimes howl just because they feel like it. The easy way to tell the difference is that when a wolf howls just for fun, other wolves will answer. This is a good thing for you, as now you have an idea of the locations of nearby wolves.
  • Wolves are scared of bears. Be really careful when they are near each other. A bear can easily make a wolf run directly at you, and then it might decide to attack you. On the flip side, you can get near a bear to lose a wolf, but this is a dangerous game.

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