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Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor
in Wolf Packs

by
L. David Mech1

Abstract: 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.
This resource is based on the following source (Northern Prairie Publication 1078):
Mech, L. David.  1999.  Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor 
     in wolf packs.  Canadian Journal of Zoology 77:1196-1203.

This resource should be cited as:

Mech, L. David.  1999.  Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor 
     in wolf packs.  Canadian Journal of Zoology 77:1196-1203.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/2000/alstat/alstat.htm  
     (Version 16MAY2000).

Table of Contents

Tables


1 Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 8711 37th Street SE, Jamestown, ND 58401-7317, U.S.A.

Present address: North Central Research Station, 1992 Folwell Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108, U.S.A.
(e-mail: Mechx002@tc.umn.edu).


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