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Wolves nuzzling in the snow

Mating Season

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I just returned from a weekend in Yellowstone National Park.  Despite the bitter cold, my attention was captured by something mysterious and beautiful.  Wolves.  I was mesmerized.  However, I was curious why the wolves were running playfully, nuzzling noses, and dancing around like excitable puppies.  This is not the gracefully fierce wolf behavior I expected. Then, our guide explained.  It's mating season.
Wolves nuzzling in the snow
Wolves nuzzling in the snow (Adventure Life)

Wildlife enthusiasts will travel far and wide on nature trips to witness the unique behaviors of animals.  Mating season is a particularly interesting period of time to observe wildlife as they put on entertaining performances.  The current season, spanning from January to March, is mating time for a variety of species:  humpback whales, orcas, racoons, beavers, bobcats, opossum, wolves, and skunks.  Impressing the opposite sex makes these animals do out-of-the-ordinary things.  As humans, I am not sure we are too different.
Let's explore a few of the intriguing habits animals use to entice and charm...
Blue-footed Booby in the Galapagos
Blue-footed Booby in the Galapagos (Kathryn Grenier)

Witness mating rituals of blue-footed boobies on a Galapagos tour.  Male boobies are especially proud of their feet, so they show them off to prospective mates with a high strut.  The bluer the feet, the more attractive the booby.  His impressive dance also includes "sky-pointing," which involves pointing his bill up to the sky while keeping his wings and tail raised.
Family shot of emperors
Family shot of emperors (Laurie Allread)

Courtship begins in March or April, when males give an ecstatic display.  The male emperor will place its head on its chest, inhale deeply, then give a courtship call.  He will move around the colony repeating the call until finding a suitable female. Standing face to face, they extend their heads up and freeze in this posture. One of the penguins will take a deep bow and its mate will follow with the gesture before the act of mating begins.
Explore the Galapagos Frigate mating ritual
Explore the Galapagos Frigate mating ritual (Laura Cahill)

Male frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands have a red pouch under their bill that is inflated like a balloon during mating season.  While putting on this exhibition, the male squawks loudly to females flying overhead until one selects him as a suitable mate.  When she lands on the ground beside him, the male frigatebird spreads his huge wings around the female for protection.
A humpback whale breaches from Alaskan waters
A humpback whale breaches from Alaskan waters

A beautiful song is the romantic secret of male humpback whales.  The crooning whale sings a complex series of loud sounds and continuously repeats them to attract females.  This serenading occurs primarily during mating season, and an Alaskan cruise might grant the opportunity to witness it!
Darwin Center tortoise mounting
Darwin Center tortoise mounting (Diane Meixner)

The males are typically the smaller tortoise, and they have preference for larger females.  Pre-mating rituals include the male showing aggression, shell butting, and biting the head and limbs of the female.  This behavior will lead to submission for mating and ovulation of mature eggs of a receptive female.
Wildlife is, of course, fascinating other times besides mating season.  Our wildlife tours offer opportunities to observe animals all year long.

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