In Belarus wolves visit badger setts rather often. Frequently the aim of such visits is to catch a badger that slacked near the burrow. During the breeding season of wolves, quite usually they try to get rid of badgers and occupy their sett. They use such burrows to leave pups inside. Normally wolf breeders enlarge the entrances of such a badger sett.
In the book on the grey wolf reproduction biology (Sidorovich & Rotenko, 2019) we told about several patterns of wolf pack multi-breeding, which we documented in Naliboki Forest and Paazierre Forest in Belarus during the last two decades. The main distinctive feature in wolf pack multi-breeding is how many big adult males, which perhaps equally ranked, take part in a breeding group of wolves. If a male leads a breeding group, normally it is only a strong male in the breeding group. Such a group of breeders may include two or three breeding females.
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.
In the last year after our study on denning in wolves in May 2020 we have already reported about the peculiar situation in denning by wolves in Naliboki Forest, the central-western Belarus. Wolf breeders stopped denning on open coaches as it used to be, and they began denning in burrows exclusively, when mammals (red deer, bison, elk, lynx, brown bear), which are characterized by aggressive behaviour to pups, got plenty altogether in this forested terrain.
In May 2021 we discovered four active wolf dens and traced the denning behaviour of two wolf breeding groups having two and three breeding females (both cases of a multi-breeding in a wolf pack). All the five breeding female wolves kept pups in burrows only. Altogether we found 33 wolf burrow-dens that were used for denning: 7 self-made by wolves and 26 enlarged badger-setts and outliers. Interestingly, that 11 out of 26 badger burrows were wolf burrow-dens before (2-7 years ago). No any wolf couch-dens were found in May 2021, while before such a situation that is inimical for wolf denning they denned on open couches and pits.
See the video below for the details of denning in wolves in Naliboki Forest during May 2021.
Every May we continue our long-term study on behaviour and ecology of denning wolves. Since 2004 the terrain of Naliboki Forest (the central-western part of Belarus) has been the main study area for the question. Since 2018 the brown bear has become more or less common there. It appears possible to investigate the interspecific interactions of brown bears and wolves and particularly during denning period in wolves.
Since the last May we began using video mode in our camera-traps more often in order to create a scientific film about reproduction in wolves in few years. The video sequence you see below is a kind of a report on the video results we gained across breeding of wolves in Naliboki Forest in 2020. In this video you see some interesting moments demonstrating various behaviour of wolf pups and parents during this secretive period.
This post is the continuation of four recent post about breeding of one wolf group in Naliboki Forest, the central western part of Belarus: (1); (2); (3); (4). After so much disturbance to the wolf family by the lynxes (at least, by two different adult males) in the recent coaching place the families relocated about one kilometre away. Avoiding extra disturbance to the wolf family, we did not search for possible carcasses of pups that could be killed by the lynxes.
This post is connected with the recent post about mortality in wolf pups in Naliboki Forest and the whole Belarus. In that post about wolf pup mortality we provided quite a lot information on stalking for wolf pups by lynxes, particularly by adult male lynxes. The most vulnerable period in this kind of lynx-wolf interference starts since mid-July, when still quite small vulnerable pups begin to walk alone rather faraway from the coaching place of the wolf family homesite.
Until wolf pups are about one month old, they stay mainly at dens being taken care of by parents who stay at the den or, at least, in the close proximity. Then wolf pups begin to be more mobile, but very hidden life of a wolf family in the tall and dense vegetation makes hard to learn the pup behaviour in June-July. The topic of wolf pups life when they are about 30-100 days old is still very poorly known in Europe and the whole Eurasia. Smart and careful usage of camera-traps can help in studying the question, while telemetry does not seem to be a right method in this case. In our study, besides camera-trapping we also used several other sources of data that are mentioned below in the post.