Getting Ready For Mating Season – Her Side
/ Post by Pandas International
Since we’ve been chatting about pandas entering mating season – we thought it might be fun to take a look at how each sex “prepares.” Ladies first:
As we mentioned in our previous post, female pandas’ estrus cycles are quite short. Females are only in heat from 2 to 7 days and only once a year, which makes mating tricky at best. Talk about right place, right time!
In the wild, pandas are solitary creatures, but maintain overlapping home ranges. In those home areas, the bears are exposed to the scents of other neighboring bears that have crossed over their path days or weeks before. If a female is a few weeks out from peak receptivity, she needs to begin to advertise her status to any males that might be in the area. Female pandas will, therefore, scent mark – with the frequency of markings increasing the closer she is to peak receptivity, appearing almost restless in their behavior. A male who comes across her scent a few days later can recognize the change in her status via that scent mark. Once he has identified this change in a female’s status, a male will then likely remain closer to this female, assessing her status more frequently and keeping closer tabs on her in order to be present at the time for mating.
In addition to scent marking, a female panda will increase the tell-tale goat-like vocalizations that signal she is in her cycle. These vocalizations increase at a time when males in the area are likely to be closer than usual, thanks to her increased scent marking and turn into more of a chirp as she nears her peak. Recent research from Zoo Atlanta indicate that males can use elements in the chirp to identify the precise time when a female is most fertile. Thus, when a male that has been hanging around waiting for his opportunity to mate hears his female chirping, he can assess whether or not she is ready to breed yet.
Here’s hoping for lots of chirping and marking from female pandas around the globe this spring so that we can welcome many new cubs this summer and fall.