Wolf reproduction, bonding and mating
Mating season can be anywhere from January to April with the alpha female having only five to seven days of oestrus. During this time, the alpha pair may move out of the pack temporarily to prevent interruption from other pack members. Also the alpha pair is almost always the only pair to mate, to avoid over population.
Usually the alpha male has dominance over the entire pack including the alpha female. But this not always true. During the mating season the alpha female takes total dominance even while the pups are still in the den. This is for the rest of the pack to know that she is the one to serve. She also decides were the den will be. With this in the packs mind, they go in search of food and bring it back to the den either for the hungry, laborious female or for the pups.
Although in rare cases a non-alpha pair will mate, according to one study, "Twenty to forty percent of the packs contain at least two adult females produce two litters".
Breeding other than the alpha pair
Depends on certain conditions:
- How dominate the alpha pair are:
- - Sometimes the alpha female will become aggressive to the other females in the pack
- - Other males that mate may be chased from the pack by a very dominate alpha male
- Mild winter's, adequate food supplies, Habitat conditions (In the arctic multiple litters is the norm, due to the harsh conditions, more litters means more chances for survival.)
- Disruption of pack hierarchy:
- - when the social order of the pack changes some researchers have noted that sometime subordinate females may mate.
Courtship and Bonding
When the two are about to mate, they bond, sleeping close and touching each other more and more. They will approach each other making quiet whining sounds, mouth each others muzzles, touch noses, and bump there bodies together. There may be mutual grooming and nibbling of each other's coats and the two may walk pressed close together. The Male may bow to the female, toss and tilt his head, and lay his legs over her neck in what could only be described as a flirting manner. The two may even sleep side by side.
As the courtship progresses, the male will smell the genital region of the female to determine her readiness to mate, his tongue flicking in and out, testing the air for traces of her sex hormones, If she is not sexually receptive, she will repel the male with growls and snaps of her jaws.
Right before copulation, the alpha pair might act jubilant by nuzzling, whipping tails in each others faces, and even urinating. This is when the actual bliss comes in by the alpha female releasing her sex hormones.Every Male in the pack reacts to this, even the male pups. As you might already know, wolves copulate like dogs, the male mounting the female from behind. During mating, an actual physical tie occurs caused by swelling in the alpha male's penis and constriction in the female's vaginal wall. After about five minutes the male will stops and twists around so the two are end to end. (This may be were the actual exchange of sperm is.) The two will still be in a tie up to a half an hour.
After Mating, pairs will continue to be affectionate. Although wolves often have long-lasting attachments to thier mates, if one wolf dies, the widowed mate may breed with another wolf. In addition, some males may bond to different females in different years, destroying the long-held "mate for life" myth.
The gestation period for wolves is fifty-nine to sixty three days.
Please visit the wolf pup Section to learn more about the next stage of the reproductive cycle