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Why and When Wolves Shed

It’s 70 degrees out today and WCC staff and volunteers have a major case of “Spring Fever!” Too bad one member of the WCC family chooses not to celebrate the warm winds, I think he has a case the “Balmy Blues.”  Atka has barely begun to shed his coat so he’s better equipped for a blizzard than a warm front.

A sample of the insulating undercoat

But Atka shouldn’t fret, in no time his insulating undercoat will begin to fall from his body like sheets of soft wool and he’ll be better prepared for the warmer months to come.  What triggers the shedding process?   This time of year both male an 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:

1) Development of the mammary gland for expectant wolf mothers
2) Maintenance of lactation – helps milk production in wolf mothers
3) Promotion of parental behavior in both males and females and thus enhances pup survival
4) 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.