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The Company Of Wolves

A brief overview of wolves covering their history, pack structure, behavior, and more.
By Cayto Ikooko Kan, Jun 21, 2016 | Updated: Jul 24, 2016 | |
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    The Company Of Wolves

    The wolf...the beautiful majestic wolf. For thousands of years the wolf has been both revered and misunderstood, hunted and feared. Whether being a symbol of truth, family, loyalty, power and mystery or a symbol of death, evil, fear, aggression, and dominance-- there’s something about the wolf that leaves a strong impressions on people's minds since the first encounter of wolf and man. The problem is these impressions are rarely (if ever) accurate. With many wolf therians the misinformation becomes very apparent, especially with the young ones. From a young age since I discovered myself as a wolf, I always felt confused by what I was seeing portrayed in media and by people. Is this what wolves really are? Why don't I feel these instincts if I'm a wolf? Well, I eventually did a lot of research and finally found the truth about wolves. As a Wolf-Man, I seek to help others who identify as of wolvenkind understand the true nature of the wolf. I’ll tear down some major areas of confusion, wolf pack hierarchy and behavior/general life.

    Pack, Dominance, Hierarchy

    The truth is this, the whole idea of the some all dominant, aggressive “alpha” wolf is largely false. It was in 1947 when a Swiss animal behaviorist named Rudolph Schenkel came up with this term. From there on the concept grew wildly and misconstrued the image of wolves even more. This was later further reinforced by David L. Mech’s (another animal behaviorist) book, The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species in 1970. Which, while having a lot of good information about wolves, gave a lot of inaccurate information as well. Wolf packs were now seen as strict units of beasts concerned with who was the biggest and baddest of the group. Well... this may come as a blow to some out there who would like to think wolf packs are that way, but new flash...they aren't.

    This concept is a purely human notion and is how a lot of humans behave, but in reality this is not at all how a wild wolf pack operates. The notion of the Alpha male wolf is based on bad science with many scientists, etc. who perpetuated the theory in the first place, now admitting it’s fallacious and refuting it. This includes even David L. Mech a well established expert in wolf behaviors, can be sited saying this

    "Schenkel’s 1947 “Expressions Studies on Wolves.” This is the study that gave rise to the now outmoded notion of alpha wolves. That concept was based on the old idea that wolves fight within a pack to gain dominance and that the winner is the “alpha” wolf. Today we understand that most wolf packs consist of a pair of adults called “parents” or “breeders,” (not “alphas”), and their offspring." [1]

    "...You know I'm very much to blame for the term alpha being used with wolves. I published a book in 1970...and in that I labled the top wolf in the pack, the alpha. And I did that at that time because that's all that science knew, but we've learned a lot"[2]

    So what happened? Why did the information get so messed up? Well, first let's talk about how the pack hierarchy really is for wild packs.

    It’s pretty simple, a male and female wolf breed together and have pups, these pups grow to be their pack. BOOM! That's about it. There’s no fight for power or overthrowing the previous alpha’s throne, no battles to the death, just parents and their children. Later the pups grow old enough and they leave to start their own packs and this process repeats. What does this sound like to you? Sounds a lot like what humans do with their families right? Now lets break it down some more. What used to be referred to as “alpha male” and “alpha female” scientist are now calling the “breeding male” and “breeding female” or “male parent” and “female parent”. In more rare packs where there is more than one breeding wolf you have the “dominant breeder” and the “subordinate breeder”. Ranks such as beta and omega don’t really exist in wild packs, and any source still perpetuating that they are is outdated. They simply aren't appropriate in describing the social relationship.

    So with that established, what caused the misinformation? Well, it’s because the initial studies of wolf behaviors from over 40 years ago were done on captive wolves! Wolves plus captivity equal an interesting result. That is because the natural process of parents raising pups and then those pups growing up to starti their own packs is completely halted. The social environment becomes stagnant and eventually contentious as the now grown pups have instincts that need to be fulfilled, but cannot be. Not to mention stranger wolves are put together. This creates a stressful environment full of outburst of dominance battles and aggression. This is what created the notion of the all dominant, aggressive “alpha wolf" along with this beta and omega thing . Wolf packs do not have this innate sense of strict hierarchy. It is not the natural order.

    Now this word “alpha”, it can still apply to wolves, so long as one really understands what it is and isn’t. The alpha wolf would really mean: the leaders, the parents, the providers and the teachers of their packs-- their children. Just as the human mother and father are. To be an alpha wolf isn’t a competition of egos, who is strongest, who and kill fastest, taking many mates or fighting.

    The terms beta and omega don't really work because wolf packs are the parents and their children and those children are all siblings typically all being the same age range. No innate secondary or tertiary levels of dominance or command exist among them. It's much more natural and fluid than that. It's time to lay these notions to rest that keep us from gaining true understanding of the wolf(and if you are of wolf kind, yourself). In the next section links will be provided to sources for more information.

    Acting Like A Wolf (Wolf Behavior)

    “I want to kill so bad”

    “The moon is making me (insert here)”

    “My wolf is making me angry” or "I can't control it"

    “I’m an alpha so (insert here)”

    ...Stuff like this has nothing to do with being a wolf. There are so many misguided statements made by supposed wolf people that it’s impossible for me to tackle them all. I’ll just start with those very common statements above.

    Wolves are not innately violent animals and like most wild predators, hunt for food, not for arbitrary needless ugres to kill. Hunting is actually a very dangerous task and wolves can incur fatal injuries from their prey. In fact the success rate of wolf hunts compared to some other predators is kinda low . So really killing is on an as needed basis for survival and energy is best conserved. But anyway, I say this to point out the fact that if you are experiencing some need or instinct to just kill, that’s not wolf like at all. Now, perhaps you just mean you are having hunting instincts which is to be expected, that can be attributed to being a wolf. I get those myself. However, lets clarify that just wanting to kill things is likely the sign of something. What that something is I don’t presume to know, but it’s not caused by being a wolf.

    The subject of hunting brings me to my next point, wolves and the moon. Wolves use howling for a variety of reasons, two of them being to relay location to the rest of the pack and to give status on the hunt. Maybe they found a new prey or caught one, stuff like that. When wolves howl we lift our heads high and sing almost as if calling to the sky. On full moon nights wolves tend to get very active, the light of the moon makes for great hunting visibility while still providing cover. Howling also increase with this activity. As we all know, humans are legendary for seeing patterns and jumping to conclusions. To the humans, wolves seem to have this romantic and fanatical relationship to the moon when in reality it's a far more pragmatic thing. The moon has no special magical effect on wolves in particular-- no more than humans or any other animal. So, wolf folks out there, you can stop attributing magical moon effects to being a wolf. However, someone can have their own spiritual connection to the moon and have their own relationship with it-- I do. For thousands of years, this myth of wolves and the moon has been perpetuated, making it understandable for people to think that, however times are changing and knowledge/understanding is growing. Let's grow with it.

    "My wolf is making me angry"... Oh, it is it? "Your wolf". Let’s get something straight here. Everyone kin or not is responsible for their actions and emotions. Do not blame violent tendencies or temperamental outburst on being a wolf. Likely people are doing this due to the whole misconception about wolf packs I discussed earlier, thinking wolves must be aggressive so they must behave that way also. Whatever you identify as YOU are responsible for your feelings and controlling your actions. Blaming it on “your wolf” not only isn’t an excuse, but also makes no sense and has nothing to do with wolf behavior.

    “I’m an alpha so…” So nothing. Being an “alpha” entitles you to nothing, nor does self proclaiming the title bestow you with any real wisdom, strength, power or authority over anyone. I once again also bring up what I discuss earlier about pack hierarchy. People who feel the need to control other and manipulate them are in fact the furthest thing from what a real leader is meant to be and need to let go of the obsession with the term.

    Now, at the risk of becoming preachy... If you desire to be a leader and respected by others than you earn that through how you carry yourself, your actions, and how you treat others. You set an example and you guide. Like the real “alpha” wolves do with their young pups in their packs. It’s not a matter of holding others down with your dominance but lifting them up with your strength and bonds with them. If you really feel you are a wolf and feel like you should be a leader then follow the example of our wild brothers and sisters. This should be an instinctual thing. “Alpha wolf” doesn’t mean what we all have been raised to think. Discovering this information when I did, cleared up a lot about my personal instincts-- why it didn’t seem to match the image that was being perpetuated by the... unaware.. to put it politely.

    Here are links to some very good websites that will help inform you on wolf behavior. Please make use of these resources

    If one is going to identify as something the time should be taken out to really research and connect with that.
    With with all this said I hope all the wolf kind out there and people in general have gotten a better understanding of wolves. Thanks for reading.

    Citations & Souces
    [1] Graduate Student/Post-doctoral Fellows Openings - L. David Mech
    [2] https:/ L. Mech speaking on wolves)

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