Unique parent cooperation in multibreeding situation of wolf pack

Coauthor Irina Rotenko

From the post about the outstanding reproductive behaviour of one model wolf pack that is leading by quite old experienced female that we call as Torn Ear, perhaps, you already got to know that during this warm season i.e. in May-July 2020 we traced a very interesting breeding situation in this wolf group.

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Documentation of using badger sett by lynx mother with small kittens

Coauthor Irina Rotenko

In our previous studies we registered usage of badger setts by mother lynx with small kittens in June-August (mainly by track registrations), as well as much interest of pregnant female lynxes to badger setts (by camera trapping). We supposed that badger sett is a quite common den of the Eurasian lynx. Nevertheless, a good documentation of using badger sett by lynx mother with small kittens was absent in our materials. We had some photos of that behaviour only.

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Breeding wolf couples without pups

Coauthor Irina Rotenko

In May 2020 we traced four breeding groups of wolves in the model area (about 1000 square km) of Naliboki Forest, the central-western part of Belarus. There were mating registered in all these wolf groups in the period from the late January till the mid-March. According to the obtained information from the camera-traps and by reading of activity signs, it looked like all the adult females of wolves got into heat and mated.

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Nowadays in Naliboki Forest wolves den almost exclusively in burrows

Coauthor Irina Rotenko

In June of 2018 there was post “Trends in the denning behaviour of the wolf and lynx in connection with the changes in the vertebrate community in Naliboki Forest (north-western Belarus)”. During the previous two years (2017 and 2018) in Naliboki Forest, the central-western Belarus we noticed several changes in the denning behaviour of wolves under the conditions of the markedly increased population densities of red deer and bison and still quite high number of elks. Bison, elks and red deer, while finding wolf pups, tend to kill them by trampling. The higher number of these animals that are inimical for wolf denning, the more protective reactions of wolf breeders we expect.

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Change in the way of our study on the wolf breeding in Naliboki Forest, central-western Belarus

Coauthor Irina Rotenko

By this short post we would like to share some ideas in relation to the necessary changes in the way of our study on the wolf breeding in Naliboki Forest with the researchers and amateurs, who deal with that. With respect to the mentioned changes, three questions may be raised: (1) why do we need to change something in the study approach on the wolf breeding; (2) what the changes will be; and (3) which benefit we expect from the changes?

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Breeding story of one model wolf pack leading by Torn Ear dominant female in Naliboki Forest: exceptional or routine?

Coauthor Irina Rotenko

Concerning the wolf Canis lupus  breeding in Europe and wider in Eurasia there is a widely spread belief that the species is strictly monogamous with a certain way of  breeding and pack formation in family pattern (e.g. Bibikov D.I., 1985 and references therein; Jędrzejewska & Jędrzejewski, 1998).  

Those beliefs suggested the three following theses: first,  during breeding season, a wolf pack has merely one litter or there are no pups; second, usually a wolf pack consists of parent wolves and their pups of the current and previous biological years as a normal maximum; additionally, such a pack may subordinate some non-relative wolves; and third, usually offspring disperse from their maternal pack around mating season, in the second year of their life, when they are 20-22 months old.

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The book on the wolf reproduction biology. Second edition.

Together with Irina Rotenko we recently published the second edition of the book on the wolf Canis lupus reproduction biology, which was based on the data gained in Belarus. There, we address the questions of the species mating, denning and raising of pups as well as mortality in wolf pups, which are still insufficiently investigated and full of contradicting hypotheses and knowledge. Therefore, the subtitle is “common beliefs versus reality”. However, the main thing for us in doing this book is to share the knowledge and skills we have gained on wolves in Belarus with wolf colleagues and amateurs.

In the second edition of the book we advanced all the former chapters basing on the results of the intensive study of wolf reproduction during spring-summer of 2018 and 2019 in Naliboki Forest. Also, we added one more chapter about the revealed trends in the denning behaviour of wolves in connection with the changes in the vertebrate community in Naliboki Forest.

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The next step in the change of wolf denning habitats in connection with further increase in red deer and bison numbers in Naliboki Forest

In June of 2018 there was post “Trends in the denning behaviour of the wolf and lynx in connection with the changes in the vertebrate community in Naliboki Forest (north-western Belarus)”,  in which I described the changes in the denning behaviour of wolves and lynxes in connection with the population growth of the lynx, red deer, bison, and recovering of the badger population in the 2010s.  It was shown that wolves with their prevailing of an open denning appeared in the hard situation to reproduce despite of the extra breeding efforts, first of all, with a pack multi-breeding.

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Climbing trees by Eurasian lynxes to emit territorial and mating calls in Belarus: pressing questions, knowledge up-to-date and difficulties to investigate this phenomenon

During the winter of 2017-2018 in Naliboki Forest we (Naust Eco Station and Wild Naliboki) have found that Eurasian lynxes climbed rather high pine trees to emit mating calls during the species mating season (Sidorovich et al., 2018). In total, during February and March 2018, we registered four such trees of the Scotch pine, on which adult male lynxes climbed for about 17-26  meters high. The density of the  local lynx population was about 4-5 inds per 100 km2 i.e. about 80 per  almost 2000 km2.  We have evaluated that phenomenon of calling by lynxes from a tall tree top as a mating call, also taking into account that it was registered in the lynx mating season in Belarus (mid-February-early April).

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Abandoned log piles as habitat spots that are important for lynx families

Quite often clearcuts in Naliboki Forest are full of logging remains. Moreover, sometimes loggers forget one or several piles of logs and they stay there for decades. It is always like a gift for lynxes, particularly the species families. The main  benefit of lynx family is that mother may leave small kittens there, and they will be safe alone in the emptiness under the logs, when the mother goes for hunting. It is especially essential, because  lynxes frequently use a long-lasting hunting from ambuscades, so, kittens need to wait for the mother quite long.

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