Cotswold Wildlife Park is celebrating the birth of a litter of five Eurasian Wolf cubs – the first to be born at the Park in its 47-year history.
For the first ten days of their lives, the cubs were hidden from sight in one of the underground dens their parents, Ash and Ember, had excavated. One night, after a heavy downpour of rain, Ember took her cubs out of the birthing den and placed them above ground to stay dry. This was the first time anyone had seen the cubs. Both Ember and Ash are devoted first-time parents and keepers are delighted that the youngsters are healthy.
The births were unexpected for the Wolves’ care team. Two-year old male Ash and three-year old female Ember arrived at the zoo just last year, and Wolves normally take a long time to form pair bonds. Additionally, females come into heat only once a year, between January and March.
Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park Jamie Craig said, “Our Wolves are a new pairing and we did not really expect a successful breeding so soon. They have settled well and at present, everything with the adults and cubs is going to plan – we are keeping our fingers crossed that it continues but we have more confidence with every day that passes. The cubs will form an important nucleus to the ‘pack’ for the coming years.”
Wolves generally pair for life. Mating takes place in late winter or early spring. After a gestation period of approximately sixty-two days, the alpha female gives birth to a litter (usually between four and six cubs). At birth, the cubs are blind and deaf and are reliant on their parents for survival. After 11 to 15 days, their eyes open. Cubs develop rapidly under the watchful eye of their mother. At five weeks, the cubs are beginning to wean off their mother’s milk but cannot immediately fend for themselves and require considerable parental care and nourishment.
The Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupus) is one of the largest Wolf subspecies and the largest found outside of the Americas. There are almost 40 Wolf subspecies including Arctic Wolf, Tundra Wolf, critically endangered Red Wolf, Dingo and the domestic Dog.
See more photos and learn more about Eurasian Wolves below.
The Wolf was once the most widely distributed land mammal on the planet, except for humans. They were nearly eradicated in England by the 13th century. Wolves were destroyed in great numbers to protect the most important asset at that time – livestock (to which they were a constant threat). The Celts hunted Wolves in the third and fourth centuries B.C with the help of specially trained Irish Wolf Hounds. Later, Edgar the Peaceful created amnesty laws related to the Wolf: lawbreakers could pay their dues in Wolf heads. In 1560, King James VI declared that all men – no matter how old or young – participate in the hunt for Wolves. The probable date the Wolf became extinct in England was 1684. In central Europe, the battle against the Wolf took on a less frantic pace but in the first decade of the 20th Century, forty-eight states in Europe were already cleared of Wolves.
Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, a small population of Eurasian Wolves has returned to the Alps. According to latest estimates, 36 packs and five pairs have been recorded in the Central European Lowlands.