Mammal Mania

In early spring mating season begins or has already begun for various PEI mammals. Mothers use the den or nest where they spent the winter to raise their young. Most mammals mate between January and March, with their young arriving in April or May, depending on the gestation period. In this module the mating habits of the various mammals will be discussed from the responsibility of the father to litter size and when the young leave their mother.   

Lesson 1 - Native - The Red Fox

Breeding season for the Red Fox is from December to April. During the fall months, male foxes become highly aggressive and territorial towards other males as they fight for a females attention. Once a pair is made the vixen and dog fox will spend a majority of their time together in close contact as they get to know each other. They still hunt alone, but communicate. They mate in January or February. The female works to prepare one or more natal dens to raise her young in.

After 51-52 days 1 to 10 (3-4 average) kits, weigh 70 -120g. The kits are blind and helpless. The mother feeds them milk, after 2 months they are weaned off and ready to venture out of the den. Their furs appear light brown, camouflaging well with sandy terrain.   By August the family is ready to break up. The male young leaves first and travels farther then the rest of the family since they are least tolerated by their father. Female young will remain in the parent territory. The vixen and dog fox will part  and reunite to mate during the next breeding season.  The dens will be used for years by the same family. 

Lesson 2 - Non-native - The Eastern Coyote

Before mating in February, Eastern coyotes court for two to three months. Little is known about the courtship of coyotes. The male is often aggressive towards other male and will mark his territory with urine during this time. The gestation period of the female lasts 63 days. The pups are usually delivered in April or May in a den the mother prepared. The litter size varies from 2 - 10, while the average is 5 or 6 pups. The pups are blind and helpless. Both the parents play a part in rearing their young. The pups, usually, emerge from the den at three weeks and are weaned at 6 weeks. At 8 - 10 weeks the pups learn to hunt.  The young coyotes are fully grown by 9 months. Juveniles will leave their parent territory during their first fall/winter. They must travel long distance to find new territory, not all make it.

Coyotes usually breed at age two. The breeding pair is monogamous for several years. A "Pack" is usually the breeding pair and their most recent pups. The average life span of a coyote is 6-10 years. In PEI, coyotes, being the largest wild mammal, are at the top of the food chain. Coyote deaths are a result of hunting, trapping or motor-vehicle accidents.

Lesson 3 - Native - The Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe hare usually breed during the first spring after they are born. The breeding season starts in mid-March with courtship parades. The male and female will mate in late March. The female give births to 1-13 young after 36 days. Right after, the female will mate again with another male. They may breed up to 4 times throughout the summer. 

Snowshoe hare are born fully furred with their eyes open. They have the ability to hop almost immediately. Rabbits are born naked and blind. Snowshoe hare nurse once a day and are self-support at 3-4 weeks. At birth they weight 45 -75kg. They gain 450g in less than a month. By 5 months they are fully grown (1.4kg).

Lesson 4 - Native - The Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern chipmunks have two breeding seasons, February to April and June to August. The female mating call is a series of chips. The males will gather in the females territories and compete for her attention. The female will chose a dominant male to mate with. After 31 days, 1-9 young, usually 4 or 5, are born in a nest burrow. The male leaves the female to raise the young. The young nurse for one month, then the mother will take them on foraging trips. At 6 or 8 weeks the young leave their nest to find new territory. They are fully grown at three months and are sexually mature the following year. The lifespan of an Eastern Chipmunk is two to three years.

Lesson 5 - Non-native - The Raccoon

Breeding season for raccoon begin in late January, early February. They mate in March and after 63 days the female gives birth to 3-7 young in May. The male is polygamous and will breed with a number of different female in one season. The female is monogamous and want nothing to do with the other males. Raccoons are born without teeth and their eyes are closed. They weigh 75g at birth. At 10 days their facial mask appears, after two weeks their eyes open and their teeth come in at 19 days. After 8 weeks they emerge from their den and learn to hunt, while stilled being nursed by their mother.  The male raccoon leaves the female to raise the young. The family unit, mother and kits, hunt together at night and stay in the den together.  The mother teaches her offspring to climb, hunt and swim during their first summer. The family unit will remain together till the following spring. The juvenile males will leave their mother territory, while the female will stay in the area. The average life span of a raccoon in the wild is three to five years.

Click here for related games and activities.

Go back to Spring Modules.