In one litter, a wolf might have between four and six pups, while they will only have one litter per year, as they will only enter into breeding season once a year.
Wolves will begin breeding at around the age of two when they mature sexually, and are believed to breed for the rest of their lives.
The size of the litters that wolves have (normally once a year) will vary. Sometimes, the litter might be as small as only four pups, while sometimes, it might be much larger than that, with the extremes reaching all the way up to 11 pups in a litter.
How Many Pups are There in a Wolf Litter?
Each litter will have between four and six pups on average, although those numbers can vary significantly; some litters have many more than four.
The number of the wolves in the litter will depend purely on genetics and the quality of the breeding material. If the breeding is done at the peak of the breeding seasons of the female, it’s likely that the litter will be larger.
The breeding season will span between January and April when it reaches its peak. When two wolves mate, they can be the only two wolves to form a pack; when the pups are born, they become the alpha male and female of the litter.
On average, most wolf litters will have 4-8 pups, with the numbers varying significantly on the higher end of the scale.
Some litters have reportedly had 11 or more pups, while it’s quite rare to see a litter that’s smaller than four pups.
How Many Pups Can a Wolf Have in Its Lifetime?
It’s highly likely that wolves will breed for their entire lives or at least until they’re physically able to do so, while they start breeding at around the age of 2.
The only constraint they have for the number of pups they can have in a lifetime is the fact that they can only breed once each year, and that is during the breeding season. After the breeding season is completed and the female delivers pups, she will spend a good part of the rest of the year caring for the pups.
Considering that the average lifespan of a female wolf is around 14 years in the wild, it’s fair to say that she can deliver pups for at least ten years, which will be enough for anywhere between 40 and 60 pups in its lifetime.
However, it’s often not as straightforward as this.
Many pups die prematurely because of poor genetics or lack of food, and only a few members of the litter might survive and live into adulthood.
This means that the number of adult wolves that will come from one alpha female will be much lower than 40.
How Often Do Wolves Mate?
Wolves mate approximately once a year if the conditions are right, but they cannot breed more often than that; sometimes, they might skip a year of breeding due to various reasons.
Their breeding season will be from January and April. If the breeding is successful, it will be followed by a period of gestation which will last anywhere between 62 and 75 days. After that, the female will spend almost the entire year caring for her pups.
This means that she will be unavailable for breeding after she has born the pups.
The job of the male as the pups are born is to protect the family and provide for the female with food and better living conditions. It’s rare to see attacks from other animals on the litter, but the male is always somewhere around whenever possible.
It’s also estimated that during pregnancy, the female will be weakened and unable to protect itself if attacked. That’s why the male will care for the female also during pregnancy, which is important to ensure that the litter is delivered safely.
Read More: Can Wolves and Foxes Mate?
How Quickly Do Wolf Pups Grow?
After the gestation period of around 63 days, the female will bear the pups and they will spend the first two to three weeks exclusively with the pups, after which they will be able to see and hear; they will be fully grown after around 11 months to one year.
Here’s the general timeline of how wolf pups grow up.
- First two-three weeks – this is perhaps the most crucial period in the development of the pups and also the period some pups don’t survive. The mother will spend all of her time with pups feeding them and taking care of them, while the rest of the pack will protect her and provide for her.
- At five weeks – the pup becomes more independent as it’s able to move around and explore its surroundings, although it still needs support from the mother and the rest of the pack
- From five weeks to one year – this is the childhood of the pup as it will explore the world around it and learn from the “elders” of the pack, especially from the alpha male. It will go with the pack to hunt but it will only act as an observer as it learns the hunting techniques alpha males use to catch the prey.
- At one year – by now, the pup is almost fully grown and can be considered an adult. It’s able to provide for itself although it’s still not fully matured sexually.
- At 2-3 years – this is the very last period of their development as they reach sexual maturity. Males can now explore and pursue other females to form new packs, while females are able to bear pups at this moment.
Read More: Are Wolves Monogamous or Polygamous
The question of how many pups can a wolf have doesn’t have a definitive answer. Some litters will vary in size and some will only have four pups, while other litters will be much larger and have up to 11 pups.