Breeding Season Wolf Watch 2011

by volunteer Dee Hull

This is an exciting time at Wolf Park for both humans and wolves alike.  You see, wolf breeding season comes once a year in late January to early February.  Obviously, the wolves are quite excited this time of year, but for the humans at the Park, it offers a rare research opportunity.

Wolves in the wild are elusive, and it is very difficult for researchers who study them to monitor the types of behaviors that we can very easily study here at Wolf Park.  Behavioral research was one of the main reasons Dr. Erich Klinghammer founded Wolf Park in 1972.   Since then he and Pat Goodmann, with assistance from many other volunteers and students, have been watching the wolves.  The breeding season offers peak opportunities for behavioral observation, as it is one of the most active times for the wolves.

Each year Wolf Park’s staff and volunteers monitor the various types of behaviors that happen before, while, and after wolves mate.  Researchers in the wild rarely have a chance to see intimate behavior such as this; therefore, what happens here this time of the year is a rarely seen, and offers a unique chance to help us understand another part of the wolves’ life cycle.  Along with breeding behaviors, the observers participating in the Breeding Season Watch are monitoring howling.  Howling is a behavior that we have a basic knowledge of, but is always interesting to continue to study.  Howling occurs more frequently during breeding season, and since we have people monitoring the wolves at all hours of the day and night during the breeding season, what better chance to study this behavior as well.

This type of observation and collection of specific information about what our wolves are doing and how they interact, helps us maintain current and in depth knowledge of our resident wolves so we can continue to educate the public about wolves and their behaviors.  We also hope that knowledge gleaned here can at some point assist others in their overall knowledge of the species, and its long term conservation.

Knowledge is key to the conservation of any species, and Wolf Park strives to be part of the movement to keep wolves living across the planet, in many ecosystems.  The Breeding Season Watch that is conducted at Wolf Park also provides an excellent opportunity for interns who come to us from around the U.S. and the world to have a chance to learn about doing observational research, and identifying behavior.   These young people can then go on to participate in research and conservation efforts for wolves and other endangered species around the world.

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