Wolf week 2…….and the ground beneath me becomes a molten mass of brown mire due to bouts of duck friendly weather – in some areas the ground looks quite artistic with splayed paw prints along wolf trails creating a patchwork of starry shapes, brightening the somewhat dark and dismal day……wolf trails are interesting tracks embedded into the landscape by the repeated rambling of wolves – which make it easier for wolves to move about their territories quickly, and wolves do move quick!! Well, in most cases they move quick, in others they are somewhat slower, particularly when it comes mating and engaging in the copulatory tie!
Mai and Motomo, the laid-back wolfy couple – spending much of their time enjoying some peace and quiet together under the shade of the trees, snoozing away in a state of tranquillity. Then there’s Torak and Mosi, the odd couple, the noisy couple, the ‘no love lost’ couple, who spend much of their time apart, minding their own business. Wanting to get data on mating wolves, you would likely put your money on the ‘loved up’ wolf couple, Mai and Motomo, and you wouldn’t be wrong, these guys have had pups together before, and so it made sense to keep an eye on these guys – over several days I watched as Mai tried to elicit sexual activity from Motomo, but he refused to partake – why!? Simple, it makes no sense for the male to waste energy mating with a female that is not fully receptive, what does make sense is for him to wait for the right moment, to ensure the energy that he uses, is used to produce offspring! This is where it gets interesting, when Mai did become fully receptive, she did not actually let Motomo mate with her – initially it seemed that the male was ‘in charge’ of when mating would occur, but that notion (from my minds ocean) was flipped on its head as Mai rejected Motomo’s advances with ferocity! So much for the ‘loved up’ couple eh!?
However, they did mate every year so, I decided to just observe and wait, in the hope that they would copulate and tie at some point. I sat watching Mai go through repeat behavioural patterns, steadily walking along the same wolf trails, looking quite tense, and then assertively chasing Motomo away with a ‘threat gape’ facial expression! Several hours passed, the battle of sun vs. rain ensued in the sky above, and still nothing. But wait, Mai is starting to trot along the wolf trails; she looks less tense, relaxed even! She is allowing Motomo to pursue her more closely and attempt copulations more frequently – then it happened (7 hours later!) – the copulatory tie! Got it!!
This tie is unique to canids and while it is not certain why it occurs, some theories include the possibility that the tie allows for a continuous flow of sperm into the female, increasing the chances of fertilisation and thus the production of offspring! These ties can last for up to 20 minutes before separation, however, Mai and Motomo only tied for 12 minutes – during which time Mai took it upon herself to have a bit of argy-bargy with the Arctic wolves, much to Motomo’s surprise! Two heads are better than one (or so the saying goes!), but I think Mai took this a wee bit too literal! Thankfully all ended well and after separation Mai went back to her laid-back way of life!
What about our odd couple? They also tied, eventually, but Torak was a somewhat less affectionate lover – while tied, instead of displaying signs of aggression towards non-pack members like Mai, he directed his at Mosi!! Lip puckering and snarling at her, and even throwing her onto the ground at one point! The lyrics, ‘ain’t no love in the heart of the city’ came to mind……poor lass……despite Torak’s somewhat cold approach, once they separated (after a mere 4 minutes!……..) Mosi seemed exceptionally pleased, and began playing with a hessian sack, tossing it into the air, and ragging it about – ‘all’s well that ends well’ I guess!!