Female wolves can act like alpha females of the pack if they are a partner of the alpha male of the pack. In that regard, we can consider the wolf pack to be a close approximation of the human family.
The breeding pair of the pack is considered to be the alpha male and the female of the pack. If we’re talking in human terms, the two would be considered as the father and the mother of the “family” of wolves, where the alpha female has similar responsibilities to the alpha male.
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Can a Female Wolf Be Leader of the Pack?
Yes, female wolves can also be alpha members of the pack, which is especially true of the breeding pair.
Wolf packs have a clear structure, as they are well-defined entities that are hard to break.
The leading members of the pack are the two members of the breeding pair – often also called the alpha male and the alpha female. These two are considered to be the leaders of the pack and will make the big decisions for the rest of the pack.
It is up to other members of the pack to follow and obey their orders.
That is especially the case when the pack has a lot of younger wolves inside it. You may consider the wolf pack to be a close approximation of human families, where the breeding packs are the mother and father, while there are also older and younger members of the pack who follow the pair.
The role of the alpha male and the alpha female is to lead the pack and enable it to survive, as well as protect the younger members that can’t fend for themselves yet. The father has to lead the pack in order to find food and opportunities for hunting, as well as teach younger members of the pack how to hunt.
The alpha male is considered to be the true leader, but if the male is gone, the alpha female might replace him and lead the pack on her own.
Sometimes, that structure gets changed and if the alpha male is absent, the next in line to lead the pack will be the eldest son of the alpha male.
Also, there’s the beta pair of the pack which is lower in the hierarchy pyramid than the alpha pair, but above the rest of the wolves in the pack.
The role of the beta pair is to assist the alpha pair and execute all the orders and follow the alpha wolves, but also make sure that the lower-ranking wolves are cooperating.
What Does the Alpha Female Do?
The main role of the alpha female is to bear pups for the alpha male and support him in his role to protect the family and ensure survival.
It will be the alpha pair’s responsibility to ensure that the pack can survive comfortably, even when the weather conditions are not in their favor. That’s why they will have to plan their survival for months ahead, even though that might not always be possible.
The alpha female’s primary role is to bear pups and help the alpha male continue the lineage. She will also be responsible for caring for newborn pups, especially the ones that are only a few days or weeks old. She has to feed the pups milk and provide other pieces of food when they grow up.
Another important role that the alpha female can have is as the leader of the pack in the absence of the alpha male.
It often happens that the alpha male leaves his original pack and searches for new opportunities, and might even start a completely new pack on his own. That’s when the female alpha can also lead her pack.
Though, such a pack would not survive as efficiently as with the alpha male if the female doesn’t have support from the rest of the pack. Often, it happens that the younger males of the pack take charge of the pack, and the alpha female assists in that quest. Other times, it is the alpha female that leads, especially if other members are too young to lead.
Related: Are Wolves Monogamous or Polygamous
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How Do You Tell if a Female Wolf is Alpha?
The female alpha wolf will appear slightly more confident than the rest of the females of the pack, and she will also be the only wolf from the pack to come close or breed with the alpha male.
These are some main characteristics that will help you define whether a wolf is an alpha leader or not:
- Alphas are near the top of the pack when they travel, as they show the way for the rest of the pack. Sometimes, the alpha male might be at the rear of the pack, while the alpha female leads the pack.
- You would be able to see the wolf’s status in the pack through its behavior. Alpha leaders appear confident and autonomous.
- The alpha female will be the only female from the pack to come close to the alpha male, and she will also be the only wolf to mate with the alpha male.
- The alpha male is often larger (though not always) than other males of the pack and might appear to be the oldest of the male members of the pack. However, that is not always the case.
In some packs, you would be able to spot the alpha members of the pack much easier than in other packs. There might not be a clear distinction in other packs. The assumption that the alpha wolves are the biggest and the strongest members, or even the oldest, is wrong.
To conclude, female wolves can be alphas of their packs but only if they are partners of the alpha male. Their main role will be to bear pups for the alpha male, and take care of the pups until they’re old enough to survive on their own. They might also lead the pack if the alpha male is not with the pack, although that is rare.
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