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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Characteristics of reproductive organs and reproductive potential in Scandinavian female grey wolves (Canis lupus).

Axner, Eva; Cederlund, Eric; Agren, Erik O.; Dalin, Anne-Marie


The Swedish wolf population is closely monitored and managed to keep the population at a sustainable level while avoiding conflicts. Detailed knowledge about reproduction is crucial for estimates of population size and the reproductive potential of a population. Post-mortem evaluation of reproductive organs can be used as a complementary tool to field monitoring for evaluation of cyclicity and previous pregnancy, including litter size. Therefore, we evaluated reproductive organs from 154 female wolves that were necropsied during the period 2007-2018. The reproductive organs were weighed, measured, and inspected according to a standardised protocol. Presence of placental scars was evaluated for estimates of previous pregnancy and litter size. Data about individual wolves were also obtained from national carnivore databases. Body weight increased during the first year of life before levelling out. There was evidence of cyclicity the first season after birth in 16.3 % of the 1-year-old females. No females < 2 years had evidence of a previous pregnancy. Pregnancy rates were significantly lower in 2- and 3-year old females than in older females. Mean uterine litter size was 4.9 & PLUSMN; 2.3, and did not differ significantly between age groups. Our data supports earlier field data that female wolves usually start to reproduce at the earliest at 2-years of age but that they occasionally start to cycle one season earlier. All females & GE; 4 years of age had reproduced. Pathological findings of the reproductive organs were rare, indicating that reproductive health of female wolves is not a limiting factor for population growth.


Cyclicity; Litter size; Ovaries; Placental scars; Reproduction; Uterus

Published in

Animal Reproduction Science
2023, Volume: 255, article number: 107266
Publisher: ELSEVIER