Journal of Ethology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 69–78 | Cite as

Reproductive behaviour of wild-living wolves in Białowieża Primeval Forest (Poland)

  • Krzysztof SchmidtEmail author
  • Włodzimierz Jędrzejewski
  • Jörn Theuerkauf
  • Rafał Kowalczyk
  • Henryk Okarma
  • Bogumiła Jędrzejewska


Characteristics of the reproductive behaviour of wolves (Canis lupus) were studied by radio-tracking and snow-tracking of four packs in Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF), Poland, in 1995–1999. Signs of mating occurred between 12 January and 22 March. Parturition occurred between 19 April and 12 May, and the denning period lasted for 49–64 days. During that time, wolves used 1–3 den sites, spending on average 27 days at each site. The dens were never reused in consecutive years, but year after year the breeding sites were located in the same parts of the pack’s territory. Ten days before parturition pregnant females reduced their normal mobility by half (from 23 to 13.5 km day−1, on average). During the ten days post-partum, they spent 85% of their time with pups and travelled 3.9 km day−1, only. On days 11–30 after parturition, females spent 74% of their time tending pups and increased their daily movement distance to a mean of 13.3 km. The females resumed full mobility 50–70 days after parturition, which coincides with termination of the weaning process. Anecdotal observations indicated that pups were tended by other pack members while the mother was absent. Compared with the years 1947–1950, in 1995–1999 the breeding season of wolves in BPF occurred two weeks earlier. A possible reason was the 1 to 1.5-degree increase in the mean annual temperature during the last 50 years.


Canis lupus Wolf Reproduction Denning Parental care 



This study was financed by the budget of the Mammal Research Institute PAS, the Polish State Committee for Scientific Research (grants 6P20401905 and 6P04F02612), the European Natural Heritage Fund (Euronatur, Germany), the German Academic Exchange Service (to JT), and the German Donor’s Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities (to JT). We thank S. Śnieżko, R. Kozak, I. Ruczyński, M. Chudziński, P. Wasiak, S. Rouys, and R. Gula, and numerous students and volunteers, who helped during the field work. Permission to capture and radio-collar wolves were issued by Ministry of Forestry and Nature Protection and the Director of Białowieża National Park.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krzysztof Schmidt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Włodzimierz Jędrzejewski
    • 1
  • Jörn Theuerkauf
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rafał Kowalczyk
    • 1
  • Henryk Okarma
    • 1
    • 3
  • Bogumiła Jędrzejewska
    • 1
  1. 1.Mammal Research InstitutePolish Academy of SciencesBiałowieżaPoland
  2. 2.Carpathian Wildlife Research Station, Museum and Institute of ZoologyPolish Academy of SciencesUstrzyki DolnePoland
  3. 3.Institute of Nature ConservationPolish Academy of SciencesKrakówPoland

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