Today is the first day of spring! Although the official start to spring can be found on the calendar, subtle cues from Mother Nature are indicators too! Ambassador wolves Atka, Alawa, Nikai and Zephyr are telling us that spring has sprung – they’ve begun to shed their winter coats.
In the coming weeks, their insulating undercoats will begin to fall from their bodies like sheets of soft wool to allow them to live comfortably during the dog days of summer. What triggers the shedding process? This time of year both male and female wolves have rising levels of a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin levels increase with the onset of long days, and during the short days of winter the hormone levels decrease. It is believed that prolactin has many key roles.
High levels of the hormone contribute to the following:
- Development of the mammary gland for expectant wolf mothers
- Maintenance of lactation – helps milk production in wolf mothers
- Promotion of parental behavior in both males and females and thus enhances pup survival
- Shedding of the undercoat!
So longer days alter the chemical makeup of wolves and help ensure that they spend the spring and summer months in comfort with their happy healthy packs.