Male and female pandas are solitary creatures but they do get together once a year, if that often, to reproduce. Neither the male or female is monogamous, and both sexes are actually considered a bit promiscuous when it comes to mating. Pandas of both sexes have a keen sense of smell but are extremely nearsighted.
Pandas can climb trees, but it’s usually only the females that are in heat and cubs who do the tree-climbing, not the males. Males make scratches or territorial markings on trees.
Male and female pandas mature at a different rate. The male giant panda enters the adult stage or becomes sexually mature when he is seven years old, whereas a female giant panda enters this stage when she is six years old. Pandas that are captive will enter into the adult stage earlier than ones that are living in the wild because they have better nutrition in the captive environment.
The female giant panda displays sexually receptive behavior such as playing with water, chasing pandas of the opposite sex, rubbing tails, eating less, walking more, making excited and friendly calling sounds and lowering her head between her front legs and hiding her eyes with her paws. Her vulvae turns red. Females vocalize when they are in heat. Males become more active and their testicles harden during the mating season. Pandas like to mate when it’s rainy or immediately after it has rained and the sun comes out. The female is only receptive to sex a few days each year. The female only ovulates once each year, usually in the springtime. The male pandas compete for access to more than one adult female during the mating season. Pandas are considered to have a promiscuous mating system. The females also mate with more than one male.
Male pandas are approximately 18 percent larger than females. Male pandas are longer than females, heavier and have stronger forelegs. Males weigh between 190 and 275 pounds whereas females weight 155 to 220 pounds.
With the exception of the mating season, giant pandas are solitary, although their home ranges overlap with other pandas. Each female panda has her own range that only she utilizes. Females live in a home range of about 1.8 square miles whereas males live in a range of about 3.3 square miles. Males may go into the territories of several females during the mating season. Males are not territorial but the females are. They will defend their territory to the death if necessary.
Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.