We studied 22sodium (22Na) turnover as a means of estimating food intake in 6 captive, adult gray wolves (Canis lupus) (2 F, 4 M) over a 31-day feeding period. Wolves were fed white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) meat only. Mean mass-specific exchangeable Na pool was 44.8 .+-. 0.7 mEq/kg; there was no differeence between males and females. Total exchangeable Na was related (r2 = 0.85, P < 0.009) to body mass. Overall, 22Na turnover overestimated Na intake by 9.8 .+-. 2.4% after 32 days. Actual Na intake was similar in males and females; however, Na turnover (P < 0.05) and the discrepancy (P < 0.01) between turnover and actual Na intake were greater in females than males. From Day 8 to the end of the study, the absolute difference (mEq) between Na intake and Na turnover remained stable. Sodium turnover (mEq/kg/day) was a reliable (r2 = 0.91, P < 0.001) estimator of food consumption (g/kg/day) in wolves over a 32-day period. Sampling blood and weighing wolves every 1-4 days permitted identification of several potential sources of error, including changes in size of exchangeable Na pools, exchange of 22Na with gastrointestinal and bone Na, and rapid loss of the isotope by urinary excretion.