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 Reproduction

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PostSubject: Reproduction   Fri Nov 02, 2012 11:39 pm

Like most other wolf activities, breeding and the raising of young involve the entire pack. Packs typically contain several immature and mature animals of either sexes. Although not all of these wolves bear pups, they do fondle them, help to care for them, and feed them. The benefits of pack care of the young are immeasurable.

The mating urge does not occur in wolves until they are at least twenty-two months old. Courtship and mating in the wolf are intimately related to each animal's year-round ties with other members of its pack. Most matings might even take place between animals in the same family - i.e., between littermates or between parent and offspring. (Mateing like this will NOT occur Du

The pair bond is formed some time before copulation, although initially, the female may be reluctant to take a partner. They may even fight at first, before the female signals her acceptance, although the actual sequence of events depends to greatly on the individuals concerned. Courtship usually is devoted to the preferred mate, and mating attempts by other wolves are generally spurned. Since not all mate preferences are mutual, this partly explains the low success rate of courtship activity.

Affectionate as the wolves are, the adults become even more so as the amount of daylight increases, no matter how slight after 21st December. The increasing daylight stimulates the wolves' pineal glands, which, in turn, triggers their pituitary gland into releasing stimulating hormones into the bloodstream. The microscopic amounts amounts of hormones trigger a response in the wolves' activities completely out of proportion to the amount used. The females come into heat.

The breeding season of the wolf occurs from late January through April, depending on the latitude, with animals in the highest latitudes generally having the latest season. All adult females come into heat, although not all copulate and have a litter. Usually only one female of the pack bears cubs each year and normally she is the most dominant - the alpha female. However the same cannot be said for the Alpha male - he may not contribute to a pack's reproduction except when the pack is first established.

According to Young (1944), pregnant wolves complete the digging of dens as early as three weeks before the birth of the pups. Since Isle Royale wolves mate during the fourth week of February (Mech, 1966a), this is evidence that den digging may begin four or five weeks before pups are born.

Dens are not used on a regular basis by wolves, coyotes, or red foxes. All of these canids sleep outdoors all year long and ultilised a den only for the birthing and rearing of their young. Several dens may be dug by the pregnant female and other pack members, and such dens may be close together as far as ten miles (Young, 1944). Little is known about the travels of the female during this period, but Young claimed that she generally remains near one of the dens for three weeks before the young are born. Most wolf dens that have been described are burrows in the ground, usually in sandy soil. In tundra regions, dens are often dug into ridges of sand and gravel called "eskers."

The den itself usually has an oval-shaped tunnel about 38 to 61cm wide and 91cm high that extends back into the earth for a distance of 1 to 4.5 metres. The tunnel ends in a chamber about 1.2 to 1.5 metres in diameter and 75cm high. No bedding material is brought into the den by the parents. Both adults take part in the excavation of the den.

In selecting a site for a den, wolves usually prefer elevated areas, on a ridge or at the top of a river or creek bank, typically near a good water source. Probably one of the major factor in locating dens near water is the nursing female's great daily need for liquid. Adult wolves are also recorded to prefer lying on high areas overlooking the den. Generally, if undisturbed, a wolf pack will continue using the same den year after year.

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