Painted wolves breed seasonally, with the pups being born in the dry months when hunting conditions are best. The average gestation period is approximately 71-73 days. Only the alpha pair breed. Should a beta pair breed, the alpha female raises all the pups.
The alpha female finds the den site, usually an old aardvark hole or a safe crevice amongst rocks. The pups stay in the den for three months, during which time, the alpha female may choose to move den once or twice, if there are any perceived dangers, or it just becomes too smelly!
Litter sizes can be quite variable, but average around 10 pups. Pups weigh about 300 grams each. They stay in the den for three months, moving from milk to meat by the age of eight weeks. After leaving the den, they only join the pack as full-fledged hunters at 12 months.
While the pack is hunting a babysitter stays with the pups at the den. While still lactating, this is usually the alpha female, but is often an aunt or uncle. The babysitter misses out on the thrill of the hunt, but is more than compensated by special time with the pups.
The pack brings food back to the pups and the babysitter, not by carrying meat, but by regurgitating the morning or evening’s meal. Painted wolves are highly social and cooperative animals, and all animals will share a little of their meal with those who have stayed at the den.
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