The leader of the wolf pack will decide where the pack will go, and the rest of the pack will normally follow the lead of the alpha male. The leader of the pack will be at the front of the pack.
The alpha male is usually the most influential member of the pack and will take the shots for the pack that the rest will follow.
However, the alpha male is not the strongest male of the pack, which is a common misconception. It’s usually the male with the most experience, and the concept of the alpha male is still not very well understood, and it may vary from pack to pack.
Who Leads a Wolf Pack?
A pack will be led by the alpha female or an alpha male, and the rest of the pack will follow the leader.
Back in 2015, one of the images showed 3 older members of the pack that weren’t able to move as fast as the rest of the pack, ahead of the pack, leading it in their own direction. This way, the three elderly wolves would be able to keep up with the pack and not get left behind, allowing the entire pack to remain cohesive.
While it was true in that particular case, the truth is that wolf packs will normally listen to the alpha male or female, who will lead the pack.
That’s exactly what is portrayed in the 2011 documentary by BBC called Frozen Planet.
In this documentary, it is clearly demonstrated and visible that a wolf pack will normally follow the alpha female, especially if the alpha male is absent and wandered off on his own. And that will happen quite often, because alpha males are often lone wolves.
The rest of the pack followed the alpha female, known as the luna wolf, in order to conserve energy, so they are able to keep going longer in hunts and travel more in a single day. An alpha female also has better organizational skills and is usually one of the more experienced members of the pack, which enables the pack not to get lost.
How is the Leader of the Pack Determined?
Alpha males and females are often determined by their experience and their ability to breed with each other.
In his 1991 paper, David Mech, who studies wolves and wolf packs, argues that alpha males and females are simply the animals that are able to breed with each other and will be the preferred breeding partner of the alpha male.
These wolves are often also the parents of the pack, so their “alpha” status is normally passed onto them naturally rather than in another way.
Many people believe that alpha wolves establish themselves as the leader of the pack through strength or by combat, which is simply not true. That theory has been debunked several times, and the structure of the wolf pack is much more similar to the structure of a human family, for example.
Alpha male and females are often just the parents of the other members of the pack, and they will be the leaders of the pack naturally, because the other members will be juvenile and unable to lead a pack.
It’s very rare to see this status contested in nature. It’s quite uncommon to see wolf fights over status, which is the perception that many people have about wolves. However, relationships within a wolf pack will be much more amicable and will follow natural order rather than being a show of the strength of these animals.
Read More: Find out about the Omega Wolf!
How Do Wolf Packs Travel Around?
The alpha male or female will be at the helm of the pack, while the rest of the members will follow it in a straight line.
The role of the alpha female (or the wolf that leads the pack) is to create a path for the rest of the pack, which is especially visible in snow. That will help the rest of the pack conserve energy that they would otherwise have to in order to travel through snow.
A wolf pack will usually travel several miles per day, especially in times of need when there is a shortage of food. When that happens, they will be looking towards larger animals of prey they can potentially catch, which could give them enough food to feed the entire pack.
The job of the leader of the pack is to find these opportunities in the wild and provide the pack with a chance of survival.
This also means that the alpha leader will have to have good navigational skills, which are essential for finding food and then finding their way back home again. Their territories will span several hundred miles, especially in the wild where there is not a lot of competition from other wolf packs.
Do Leaders Travel on Their Own?
It’s also possible that a leader of the pack will sometimes wander off alone, especially if the wolf pack remains more or less stationary for a day or two.
It’s especially typical to see an alpha male go off on his own and try to fend for himself. He’ll look to find smaller animals of prey that he can catch alone.
When or if the alpha male is gone, the alpha female will take up the reins and lead the pack. The alpha female also has to have good leadership skills and needs to ensure that the pack stays together when the alpha male is gone.
If the alpha female is pregnant, the alpha male will stay close with the pack and protect it, but especially protect the female against potential attacks from other wolf packs.
Wolf packs follow a strict social hierarchy that’s still being examined even today. Many scientists and zoologists of the past and present have tried to decipher the definitive structure, but in the end, each pack has its own peculiarities.
The alpha male or the female will most often be the ones responsible for leading the pack, although some other members will take up the reins occasionally, but it doesn’t happen often.