Wolf Hunting Tactics
Wolves are primarily nocturnal animals that avoid the heat of day. They generally commence hunting at dusk.
Wolves detect prey by three primary means, sent (most common), tracking, and chance encounters.
After prey is detected, wolves may split up to search through brush, travel on ridge tops searching for the prey below, or test herds looking for signs of weakness.
It has long been recognized that wolves often take advantage of wear members of the herd. In 1804, Captain Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition wrote that prairie wolves followed buffalo and fed "on those that are killed by accident or those that are too pore or fat to keep up with the ganges."
Later researchers reinforced the image of the wolf as a predator of the very young, the very old, the weak, of the diseased. Aldolph Murie, in the Wolves of Mount McKinley,wrote: "Many bands seem to be chased, given a trial, and if no advantage is gained or weak animals discovered, the wolves travel on to chase other bands until an advantage can be seized."
Lois Crisler notes in Arctic wild, "In all our time in the arctic, the only healthy caribou we saw or found killed were fawns with big herds." She observed that adult caribou killed had "hoof disease, or lung tapeworm, or nostril-cloging ... botflies." In a 1980 study in northeast Alberta, T. Fuller and L.B. Kieth found that "wolves killed disproportionately more young, old and probably debilitated moose (Ales alces), as well as more female calves."
In fact, the only animal that habitually preys upon prime mature animals is man.
Although it does not prey only on the weak and the ill, the wolf is opportunistic, and it is inevitably the disadvantaged that are the easiest to catch.
Weakened animals may show thier condition to predators through body stance, uncoordinated movements, the smell of wounds or infection, or some other tangible signal. The reading and evaluation of these signals comprises what Barry Lopez has poetically termed "the conversation of death."
Once a weak individual is selected by a pack, wolves will usually travel upwind. By traveling upwind, the sent of any prey will be carried to them. They will follow the air currents directly to the game. Or, they may follow the sent trail left by a game animal's foot tracks and body odors.
Just before the chase wolves prefer to make there final approach downwind so there body sent is not carried to the prey species, alerting it to their presence
Prey that runs is usually chased. Prey that stands its ground may be able to bluff off its pursuers. Moose and Elk often take to deep water or swift rivers and await departure of the pursuing wolves, But more often than not the wolves wait. While the majority of the pack rests, one or two members test the prey for signs of fatigue.
Usually the chases are short, but L. David Mech has stated that "One wolf I know of chased a deer for 13 miles."
David Gray described one such encounter in Canada's high Arctic in the musk-oxen of Polar Bear Pass:"the wolves approached to within a hundred meters of the herd ... one wolf lay down as two others circled the milling herd."
Contrary to popular belief, most prey chased by wolves actually gets away. In one study, only three percent of the moose that were tested ended up being killed. The percentage of prey that is killed is called the "predation efficiency," and in spite the wolf's prowess as a hunter, the majority of his prey escapes.
When the attack comes, the prey is usually seized by either the nose or the rump. Rarely, if ever, does a wolf hamstring a prey animal. This is one of the oldest and most pervasive false beliefs held about wolves. As late as 1980, the Aubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals stated that the wolf kills "by slashing tendons in the hind legs.", this is pure myth. The actual death of the prey is usually caused by massive blood loss, shock, or both. Sometimes with smaller prey a neck bite will snap a backbone.
The Alpha wolf will eat first, Wolves usually begin to feed on the rump, if it was exposed during the chase, or else on the internal organs. The muscle and flesh is the last portion of the prey that is eaten, in contras with human habits. Having strong jaws allows the wolf to crush bones to get to the soft marrow, it also helps the wolf eat most of its prey leaving very little waste at the killing site.
Another myth is that packs are required to bring down large prey; several observers have seen single wolves catch and kill elk and moose. The first wolf to return to Sweden after the extermination of its wolf population regularly brought down large moose by itself.
There is evidence that wolves have some knowledge of proper prey management. L. David Mech found one pack in Minnesota that varied its killing by hunting in a different part of its territory each year, allowing prey numbers elsewhere to recover, aiding the long-term survival of the pack.
Wolves hunt out the weak, the sick, the old, and the injured. They help the population of prey animals like the elk, deer, moose, and caribou, by taking away the weak and letting the strong survive. This is important part in the ecological system. By enhancing the strength into the herds. Without animals like the wolf to eliminate the weak, old , sick and injured, the herd of deer would swelter. They would become so numerous that they would starve to death. The wolf helps keep them healthy by insuring the breeding of the strong.
Wolves also help feed other animals. When a wolf kills and eats, he sometimes can't eat it all. This leftover feeds animals such as the buzzard, the possum,fox, coyotes and eagles. They help keep the forest clean by removing the sick before it can spread.
[1/4/2010 6:43:11 AM] Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of Ask For IT: 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 their 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.
[1/4/2010 6:43:47 AM] Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of Ask For IT: Pups are born completely blind and deaf (but have a keen sense if smell), depending on the their mother and other members of the pack. The whole pack takes care and raises the pups (non-breeding females produce milk and males compete to baby sit).
pups Usually four to six pups are born together. This is called a litter, and the pups in a litter are called litter mates. Pups are born inside a den. A den is sometimes a small cave or a hole dug out of the ground.
(left) Picture from The ©Richard E. Flauto Wildlife Foundation
The den must be big enough for the mother and her pups. It shelters them from the weather and protects the pups from other animals that may want to hurt them. Packs sometimes use the same den year after year. At other times, they make or find a new den each year.
To Learn more about dens, Click, here.
Wolf pups at this age may be preyed upon by Golden Eagles, Bear can also prey on young pups. There are several records of a number of adult wolves decoying bears away from their pups' den until they left.
Pups grow inside their mother for about 63 days before being born. At birth they weigh only one pound, and their eyes are closed. Pups grow quickly. About 12 to 15 days after they are born, they open their eyes. By two weeks of age, the pups can walk, and about a week after that, they may come out of the den for the first time. At first, they live only on milk from their mother.
The Birth and Nursing
After birth the female wolf will lick the fetal sac from the puppy's head (she will also swallow all of these membranes), this allows the pup to take its first breath. The placenta attached to the pup by the umbilical cord will be delivered along with the pup. The mother severs the cord and eats the placenta (eating the placenta provides a valuable meal when she is unable to hunt).
The female wolf will lick the puppy dry and encourages it to nurse. The pup will instinctively move to the warm underbelly and nuzzles around to find a teat. The mothers mammary glands secrete colostrum, a watery milk which contains important antibodies. During nursing the mother will clean the pups and stimulates them to urinate and defecate by licking the genital region. She swallows all of their excretions, keeping the birthing area clean and odor-free.
Stages of Development
* 10 - 13 days: the eyes open
* 3 weeks: the milk teeth appear, they start to explore the den
* 4 - 5 weeks: short trips outside the den, begin to eat meat
* 6 weeks: moving up to a mile from the den (with adult wolf)
* 6 - 8 weeks: pups are weaned, traveling to rendezvous site.
* 12 weeks: begin to travel with the pack on hunts (with adult wolves)
* 15 - 28 weeks: milk teeth are replaced
* 7 - 8 months: begin to hunt with the pack
Pup mortality ranges from 30% to 60%. Pups die from diseases, malnutrition and starvation, life in the wild can be difficult. Wolves being very social animals are known to bury the dead pups, In R.D Lawrences' "In praise of wolves" pack members "mourn as deeply as might a human family".
The Early Years
pups In a few weeks (4-5 weeks), the pups start eating meat. This is brought to them in the stomachs of the adult wolves. The pups lick around the mouth of the adult, and the food comes back up into the adult's mouth. This sounds terrible to us, but wolf pups love it!
All the wolves in a pack help take care of the pups. When the pups are very small, other pack members bring food to the mother so she does not have to leave the den. When the pups are a little bigger, pack members "take turns" bringing them food, playing with them and even "baby sitting." Once the pups are about eight weeks old, they leave the den and start using "rendezvous sites." These are meeting places where the wolves gather to sleep, play and just "hang out." Until the pups are old enough to go with the adults, (when pups are six months old, they look almost like adult wolves. Around this time, they start hunting with the rest of the pack) they stay at the rendezvous site. Often, one of the adult wolves stays with the pups to watch over them.
pupsWolf pups love to play. They chase each other and roll around the way dog puppies do. Many of their games appear to be a sort of practice for the things they will do as adult wolves. Pups have been observed playing with "toys" like bones, feathers or the skins of dead animals. They "kill" the toys over and over again and carry them around as "trophies." As they get bigger, they begin to hunt small animals, like rabbits. This is all good practice for the day they join the pack for their first real hunt for large animals.
pupsMost wolf pups are born with blue eyes, which gradually change to a yellow-gold color by eight to sixteen weeks, though sometimes their eyes can change color much later. Occasionally, a mature wolf will be found with blue eyes.