Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs by L. David Mech – 1999


The prevailing view of a wolf (Canis lupus) pack is that of a group of
individuals ever vying for dominance but held in check by the "alpha" pair, the alpha
male and the alpha female. Most research on the social dynamics of wolf packs, however,
has been conducted on non-natural assortments of captive wolves. Here I describe the
wolf-pack social order as it occurs in nature, discuss the alpha concept and social
dominance and submission, and present data on the precise relationships among members
in free-living packs based on a literature review and 13 summers of observations of
wolves on Ellesmere Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. I conclude that the typical
wolf pack is a family, with the adult parents guiding the activities of the group in a
division-of-labor system in which the female predominates primarily in such activities as
pup care and defense and the male primarily during foraging and food-provisioning and
the travels associated with them.

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