Wolf Pack Dynamics

September 12, 2018 3 min read 4 Comments

Wolf Pack Dynamics

Alpha, Beta, Delta, Omega – sounds like some college fraternity that couldn’t pick a name. These are the names that have been used to describe the wolf pack hierarchy for many years, until more recently. The human race has a habit of wanting to put things into categories and nice little tidy boxes with well-meaning labels. However, the more research into this specific topic revealed something particularly interesting when it comes to wolves. There are no labels, no boxes, and no categories. Everything is done for the good of the pack. All of the disputes, the howling, the playing, the hunting – it is all done to ensure the pack’s survival and continuation of the future generations. If this sounds simple and underwhelming, it is. But it is also what makes packs successful.  

Wolves have existed for such a long time doing what they do, adapting and changing with their ecosystems, ensuring pack survival. There are leaders, and there are followers in that pack, just as there are in most similar species. For a very long time, it was thought that the Alphas were the leaders of the pack. To be clear, there are leaders, those who take the lead in a hunt, those who get to eat the good bits first, and those that lay down the law and make sure that the subordinates know where they stand. But every wolf in the pack has something they do, some better than others, some because that is the place they have been put in and have to do what is required. The “higher” in the pack, the more freedoms are enjoyed.

There is a breeding pair in the pack which was typically thought of as the alphas, but this has been proven to be more of a “mom and dad” type of scenario, as usually only the one pair mate. There are betas, those who are the “generals” of the group, or the second in command, just under the “alphas.” Then, of course, there are the subordinates, those who have their places in the pack that still have important jobs to do. There are the babysitters who watch the pups when the pack is out hunting or enforcing their territory. There is typically one omega, the lowest wolf on the totem pole, who has done something to get themselves demoted to this position. While they do tend to get the most negative attention, they also serve a purpose. The omega is a necessary position in the pack that, if done well, tends to alleviate tension in the pack, as they will instigate play, which helps to keep the pack focused on the necessary things. Depending on pack size, there can also be scouts, hunters, protectors/watchers, and many other positions.

Typically, a pack consists of 6 to 10 wolves, but there have been packs that have had a lot more, such as one of the packs that was in Yellowstone National Park. However, as you can imagine, not everyone stays with the original pack. Usually, the males will leave to find or create a pack of their own. Sometimes the females will be swayed away from their pack by an outsider male. While pack dynamics can change many times throughout the life of one generation, a good leader will keep the pack going, and it will be successful. This is the ultimate example of working together for the greater good of the group.

 For now, reach for the stars, believe in yourself, and howl at the moon for the sheer joy of it. Forever Follow the Wolf.

Written By Samantha Ford

Links –

Wolf Ranks


“Alpha” Wolf


National Geographic Documentary – Inside the Wolfpack


The Hidden Lives of Wolves


Wolf Country


Mid-Ranking Wolves


4 Responses

Wolf enthusiast
Wolf enthusiast

November 24, 2020

It is important to know that this information is outdated! The scientist who published the paper that claimed this was the pack dynamic has admitted that his results were NOT what happens in the WILD. His research only showed the dynamics that a group of unrelated, adults wolves in a controlled environment showed.
In reality, the ‘alpha’ pair is the rest of the pack’s parents, this is why they’re the leaders. There is no such thing as a ‘Beta’ or a ‘Gamma’ only older or younger siblings. There is no such thing as an ‘Omega’, these are just older pups that look like adults, similar to how a one-year-old dog looks like an adult, despite still being very much puppy-like mentally speaking.
All wolves share the same tasks, because unlike u-social animals, like ants or bees, there are no ranks. All wolves, except for ‘young’ pups (as soon as they can keep up with the rest, they will act as adults) hunt, protect and maintain the pack. The goals of a pack are to raise and protect puppies and to remain alive.
Unrelated wolves only form packs if they are mates, which is something this article got right. A group of unrelated wolves is unlikely at best. Loner wolves can only survive alone for one or two years. If they do not find a mate, they are most likely going to die, because one wolf can not hunt elk without help, and will find it hard to stay alive only on the other food options, usually small animals or carcasses left by bigger predators.

Renee House
Renee House

June 26, 2019

I am thrilled that I found this site. I am a avid Wolf lover. I am learning more about them and I think it’s fantastic! Beautiful merchandise and fair prices

Denise Como
Denise Como

June 25, 2019

The same social hierachy exists in domestic dogs. If one has two or more dogs, that constitutes a pack. I am always the alpha—after me, there will be an alpha among the dogs. Once that position is established, things usually run smoothly. If they don’t, I step in as the referee. I don’t do “fur babies” or “fur kids.” My dogs are dogs. I love them to bits, but they are still my dogs. They are well-behaved and have what I call “house manners.” Puppies brought up in that pack environment end up being happy, well-adjusted youngsters, not spoiled brats. (Works for kids, too. LOL).


September 12, 2018

Great job writing on the wolves.

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