Wolves reproduce when the alpha male and female of a pack mate and bear offspring. Once this occurs, all members of the pack, which is a group of family members and often the older offspring of the mating pair, take care of the pups.
A wolf reaches prime reproductive age between 2 and 3 years old. At this point the female goes into heat and mates with a male during the first three months of the year, usually from January to March. The female carries the pups for 63 days before giving birth to a litter, which consists of between four and six young.
The new pups are born blind and deaf, depending on their mother for nourishment and the rest of the pack for protection. They nurse at least every 4 hours for several weeks. At six weeks old the pups are weaned from their mother's milk, and by 8 weeks they are eating solid food. By the time the pups reach 6 months of age, they travel with pack and at 9 months they are considered fully mature although they do not officially join the pack until they reach the age of 3. At this point, the pups can either remain with the pack, which consists of older siblings, relatives and their parents, or strike out on their own.