Again very high mortality in wolf pups in Naliboki Forest in 2021: only one pup survived from 6 litters

Co-author Irina Rotenko

Since May 2021 in the protected area of Naliboki Forest consisting slightly more than one thousand square kilometres we traced six wolf litters. Altogether there were 35-40 wolf pups. In the mid-July there were registered 15 pups (2, 8 and 5). In September only one breeder group saved 4 pups. These breeder group consisted of mother, father and another adult female, which was like a pup-sitter. Till December they lost 3 more pups. In the beginning of January 2022 merely one pup walked with the three adult wolves there. That pup was the only single one in the the protected area of Naliboki Forest and the whole Naliboki Forest in the beginning of 2022.

Among the causes of disappearance of the pups, the following ones may be listed. One wolf burrow-den with six pups was destroyed by a brown bear in May in the Navusts’ locality.

One breeding group (three breeding females and two adult males; the case of pack triple-breeding) at the Biarezina medium-sized river, having three litters initially, lost all the pups till August. In the area of their stay three adult male lynxes were registered by camera-traps in proximity to the wolf litters in repeated occasions. So, we blame these adult male lynxes in killing of the pups. In previous years we well-documented killing of wolf pups by adult male lynxes in this area. One of the male – killer of wolf pups (we call Jury) stays in the area still.

One more wolf family in the localities of Jamno-Budy-Shubin, perhaps, suffered from two adult male lynxes, too. The adult male lynxes were registered in proximity to them in repeated occasions.

One more wolf litters could be killed by either bison or adult male lynx or stags. All of them very frequently registered by camera-traps in proximity to the pups.

There was no hunting on wolves or working of wolf pup searchers in the protected area of Naliboki Forest in 2021.

You can support the research on large carnivores in Naliboki Forest by buying just a coffee. It will help to keep the study going.

16 thoughts on “Again very high mortality in wolf pups in Naliboki Forest in 2021: only one pup survived from 6 litters”

  1. Sorry but not a lover of wolfs! I seen what and how they kill for fun while I lived, hunted and worked in Alaska! But I still love ur videos!

    On Wed, Jan 5, 2022, 1:05 PM Zoology by Vadim Sidorovich wrote:

    > Vadim Sidorovich posted: ” Co-author Irina Rotenko Since May 2021 in the > protected area of Naliboki Forest consisting slightly more than one > thousand square kilometres we traced six wolf litters. Altogether there > were 35-40 wolf pups. In the mid-July there were registered 15 p” >

  2. Hi Vadim & Irina,

    I hope you are both well, and your growing family flourishing.

    This is a sad story for the wolf population, but in your experience is it unusual for only 1 out of 44 pups to survive? It seems an extreme number to me. But does it perhaps indicate an imbalance between wolves and lynxes? Is it just a natural way to maintain balance in the eco-system? Are you concerned for the wolf population?

    I would be interested to hear.


    1. Hello Roddy, thanks for the really worthwhile question on the topic about wolf reproduction. I still remember how we have seen a wolf in the last hour of your trip here.
      Actually, I waited that somebody would raise such a question finally.
      This wolf reproduction problem comes from human. Historically before much impact of human on natural forest ecosystems there were not so many red deer, roe deer, bison, elks and lynxes. The terrain-wide logging and reforestation, draining of marshes for hay-taking fields with hay stores, fields with maize or grain etc, silo stores and feeding stations altogether provided a high increase of habitat carrying capacity for wild ungulates approximately in 10 to 100-fold in Naliboki Forest. We know that while comparing wild ungulate density at present and in the primary Naliboki Forest, what we more or less can learn from the archive of Radzivil duke, who owned Naliboki Forest since the late 16th century.
      The highly increased density of roe deer and red deer led to a lot higher possible density of lynxes. From the archive of Radzivil duke, it is possible to assume that in the primary Naliboki Forest there were 2-4 lynxes per 1000 square km. Nowadays we have 2-5 lynxes per 100 square km. So, possibility of wolves to save and raise pups with their behavioural manner of denning and raising pups (read wolf book Sidorovich, Rotenko, 2019 in Research Gate ) got almost impossible especially if there are many lynxes, bears and bison. Red deer and elk are not too much problem for reproduction of wolves. Wolves try to adapt for the new unfavourable situation. They subordinate special non-breeding females as pup-sitters; they began denning in burrows exclusively; they relocate pups in extensive grasslands or maize field etc. However, the very bad problem that lynxes and bears tend to hunt on wolf pups systematically and deliberately.

  3. I find it hard to believe that wolves haven’t caught Lynx or Lynx kits in the open and killed them. Wolf packs have killed cougar pups in Yellow Stone national park.

    1. In Belarus and plausibly in the whole European forest zone, when wolves are common, lynxes inhabit forest habitats only. They may walk at a forest edge, but very rare they appear fairly far (200-300m) from the nearest forest edge in an opening. That is the lynx response on a possible danger to be killed by wolves. When lynx kittens are a month old and later, and when the mother leaves them for a few hours, she places the kittens on an inclined trees mainly. Therefore, lynx kittens survive with no problem of wolf aggressive attack. All these results were described in my new book on the Eurasian lynx. See the last post in the blog.

  4. Excuse me。I wonder if both young male and female wolves are capable of long distance travel. Some of the big cats I know of are males that spread very far and females that usually stay near their mothers home range. It makes me think. So I wanna know if there are differences between the sexes of wolves in terms of distance travel.

    1. Thanks for the question, but I do not know much how far young wolves can travel in Naliboki Forest and other areas of Belarus. However, concerning to the too high mortality in wolf pups, I would like to state that mainly they are killed by lynxes, bison, brown bears, stags, elks and others before the pups are able to travel long distance.

  5. Excuse me. Yes it’s me again, ha.
    I’d like to ask a question about the average life span of wolves. I’ve read on the Yellowstone National Park website that the average lifespan of wolves in Yellowstone is 4-5 years, and outside Yellowstone it’s estimated to be 2-3 years, and I’m a little confused about this data. If you have counted wolf lifespan in your study area, I’d like to get a general idea of how you did it, and some information about the data. Thanks a lot!

    1. Concerning to the question, I have the following data only, which were published in 2011 in my book “Analysis of the vertebrate predator-prey community” That was for a stable population in northern Belarus, moderately or heavily exploited: mean longevity in adults was 3.4 years (n=94 skulls investigated), maximum longevity – 9+.

    1. This year in Naliboki Forest there are few wolves, perhaps, due to too high mortality in pups and too heavy eradication of the species outside of reserves. As far as we could learn for the moment, in the forested area about 1000 km2, where we are able to investigate wolves, there are maximally 7 wolves only (3, 1or 2, 2). We found one burrow-den with at least three pups, but in a week a male lynx entered the burrow (we video-registered that) and perhaps it killed all or part of the pups. We will try to learn that more detailed during the next month. Concerning other 1-2 and 2 wolves, still we did not recognize they have pups or not.

  6. Ich beschäftige mich seit vielen Jahren mit dem Wolf und kenne diesbezüglich Regionen in Karelien und Kirov und bitte um Aufnahme in den Blog. Zurzeit eskaliert in Deutschland das Problem mit dem Wolf. Wir haben in 95% Kulturlandschaft mehr als 2000 Wölfe die aufgrund des strengen Schutzes den Menschen immer näher kommen und mehr als 4000 Nutztierrisse pro Jahr verursachen

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