Thursday, December 6, 2012

Catty Wolves?


During wolf breeding season, we are tasked with separating each pack's non-breeding males and females. In the wild, wolves naturally avoid breeding with pack members, an innate behavior that decreases the risk of adverse mutations. For this reason, it's common for young pack members to disperse from their natal pack in order to breed. Winter intensifies emotions in both wild and captive wolves, but limited by the boundaries of their enclosure, captive wolves are unable to disperse. With such restrictions, it's necessary that all male family members be kept apart from the females until hormones subside. This solution prevents inbreeding, but it fails to alleviate some of the tension that builds among same-sex family members. It's not uncommon for pack females to challenge one another during this season, and with no escape options, this rivalry among sisters can become lethal. It's not a phenomenon in every pack, but this year we'll be taking precautions to reduce the risk of injury among one group of sisters who were born at the WCC in 2008. It's possible to better manage unruly wolves in estrus with birth control treatments called MGA (melengestrol acetate) and Deslorelin. These oral remedies have been proven to diminish the competitive behavior that females naturally demonstrate during the winter months. Come March, hormones will settle and family reunions will follow.

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