How Long Do Wolves Live?

In Yellowstone National Park, wolves live about 5 years within the park boundary where they are protected from hunting. Outside the boundary, their average life span is only 3 years.

What is the Wolf Family Unit?

The gray wolf family unit includes parents, pups, siblings, aunts, and uncles. The alpha male and alpha female play the dominant role. They are the leaders of the pack and are responsible for breeding. The rest of the pack helps with raising the pups.

The alpha female determines where the pack goes and where to den while the alpha male is the protector of the pack. The next in line is the beta male and beta female and then the subordinates. All play an essential role in the structure of the pack. Sometimes the alphas will allow other members of the pack to breed or take turns being in charge, depending on the personality of the alphas. If a pack loses its alpha, their leadership is compromised.

How often do wolves mate?

Wolves only mate once per year. They typically mate in March and have a gestational period of around 63 days. A female can have anywhere between one and nine pups, but the average litter size is four. When pups are born they only weigh about one pound. Their eyes are closed, and they are deaf. The whole pack cares for the pups. Non-breeding females produce milk and everyone shares babysitting duties. Often an Uncle or Aunt has a special bond with the youngsters and cares for them while the rest of the pack is hunting.

How quickly do wolf pups grow?

The pups grow rapidly, after 12-15 days, they open their eyes. By two weeks, they can walk and explore the den. Within 4-5 weeks, they can take short trips outside the den and begin to eat meat. By six weeks, the pups may move within a mile of the den with an adult. In 6-8 weeks, the pups travel to a rendezvous site. The site is a place where the pups stay put while the pack leaves to hunt. The pack comes back to the site to sleep and feed the pups. By 12 weeks, they begin to travel with the pack on hunts. Between 7-8 months, the pups start to hunt with the pack.

What is the mortality rate of wolf pups?

On average, there is a 50% chance of a pup living to December 31st of the year it was born. Pups die of diseases, malnutrition, starvation, and attacks by a rival pack or species. This statistic on its own shows just how hard it is to be a wolf and survive in the wild without the additional threat of hunting.

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