By Jan Ove Gjershaug
SERIOUS INBREEDING IN THE SCANDINAVIAN WOLF POPULATION
Inbreeding has been a problem in Scandinavia since the first pack settled after the total extinction of the former population. Early in the 90’s there was registered breeding between siblings. Luckily a Finnish-Russian male immigrated into Scandinavia in the same period, and the fresh blood resulted in more genetic variation and a rapid increase of the population.
Still the Scandinavian population is desperate for new blood.
Only this year one of Norway’s breeding females of the Slettås pack only gave birth to one pup - a very small litter for a wild Scandinavian wolf. After doing DNA tests, the scientists found out that the father to this pup was also the brother.
Although the scientists has found some malformations on both skeleton and organs, the most common inbreeding symptoms are not visible. It is the effect the inbreeding has on the reproduction that is the biggest concern, as pups are important for the population’s excistance. The litter’s survival are also affected by inbreeding, both before and after birth.
The Slettås pack currently consists of the breeding female and her 6 sons. The former breeding male and father of the three previous litters, disappeared this winter, most likely killed by humans. It is in the wolves’ instinct to reproduce, so when the breeding male dies it is natural for the breeding female to start looking for another male. Usually she will look for males outside the pack, but seeing as there aren’t a lot of wolves in Norway, I reckon that her instinct to produce must have forced her to breed with one of her own sons instead.
In order for the Scandinavian wolf population to survive new genes from the east are sorely needed. Unfortunately, whenever a Finnish/Russian wolf comes in to Scandinavia they never get to live long enough to find a mate and to reproduce.