Wolves live in family groups,
referred to as “packs”. A pack is usually made up of a male and a female
parent, and their pups of the last few years. Usually 4-6 pups are born in a
litter. The pups in a litter are called litter mates. The first home is usually
a den, which can be a small cave or hole dug in the ground. It must be big
enough to shelter the mother and pups from weather and protect pups from other
animals that may want to hurt them. Packs sometimes use the same den for
several years, or they may find a new den each year
Pups grow inside their mother for
about 63 days before they are born. At birth, they weigh in at only about one
pound, and their eyes are closed. Pups grow very quickly. At about 10 to 14
days after they are born, they open their eyes and by about 2 weeks of age they
can waddle, about a week after that, they very well may come out of the den for
the very first time. At first they live only on the milk of their mother, then
by three weeks of age they start to eat meat and since the pups are still way
too young to hunt, the adult wolves bring them the meat in their stomachs.
Known as regurgitation, the food comes back up into the adult’s mouth. This may
sound INCREDIBLY nasty to us, but the wolf pups absolutely love it and eat it
within seconds. Any pup that is not aggressive in
comparison to his/her brothers and sisters gets less food. If pups are too
persistent in their begging for food, adult wolves may growl to warn them to
stop. The adults may also leave the areain an attempt to avoid the pups
ALL THE WOLVES
in the pack help to take care of the pups. When the pups are small other pack
members will take turns bringing them food, playing with them as well as even
babysitting them. Once the pups are at least 8 weeks old, the adults will take
the pups and leave the den to take them to a rendezvous site. More often than
not, one wolf stays with the pups. Wolf pups also love to play and this type of
play will help them all their lives. They will play with each other and their
older brothers and sisters, stalking and pouncing on each other. This kind of
play serves as practice for stalking and killing prey and learning the social
interactions of the pack itself. Like human babies, pups also play with “toys”
like feathers, bones or the skins of dead animals.
will kill the toys over and over again and carry them around as trophies. As
they become older, they will use the skills learned from this “play” as they
begin to hunt, starting with smaller prey like rabbits.
When the pups turn 6 months old,
they will then start to hunt larger animals with the rest of their pack.
Can you see the ways in which wolf
families are like human families? How are they different from each other?