Alpha, Beta, Omega...OH MY. Wolf Hierarchy


 
WICKED GIVEAWAY #2
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Rocky Mountain Shifters #2
Paranormal Romance
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In writing shifter romance, much research goes into learning how animals that live in packs or pairs act. The social conduct and structure are essential and translate into a realistic tale in paranormal fiction. In writing a romance like Blood Brothers, eyes aren’t just windows to the soul to this keystone creature. In a wolf pack, it is through eye contact that a wolf maintains dominance crucial to the well-being of packs. Most of what is communicated between animals, wolves, leopards, or humans is silent. Body language conveys 97% of meaning. Wolves operate in a pack with a hierarchy which for the most part simply means who gets to produce the pups.

Wolf Hierarchy
Within a wolf pack, hierarchy permits a distribution of the roles and responsibilities enforced with acts of dominance and submission through the use of eye contact, facial features, and tail positions. At the top is the alpha and there may be two, a male and female. Right below is the beta. Again, segmented so two, male and female, exist. And then there is the omega rung. Lowest. The hierarchy of the pack determines who shall mate, who shall be decision maker, which wolves eat first and who eats last, who patrols and who watches the pups.

Alpha Pair
Mating pair of the pack. The male and female (per Barry Lopez’s book Wolves and Men) are thought to work in tandem where the male is head of the pack subordinate males and the female head of subordinate females. They share equally is decision making except during springtime mating, when the female solely decides upon the location of the den, and therefore where the pack resides. During the birthing the female does not actively hunt. Food is brought to her and the pups. Alphas are not always the strongest or largest of the wolves. For all practical purposes, in reality they are the parents. They lead, yet so can other wolves within the pack. There is more democracy in wolf packs than what is imagined.

 


Beta
Below the alpha pair. The enforcers of the pack. Exist in a pair. If something happens to the alpha, male or female beta may move up into the alpha role. Betas have been known to mate in their secondary positions yet only when there is an abundance of food. The limited mating is to ensure the survival of the strongest pups. Betas must assert themselves when they are younger (yearlings), distinguishing themselves from other subordinate wolves.
 

Omega

Generally, the pack has one omega. This wolf is lowest in ranking. Eats last and may travel on the outskirts of the pack, but not always. Some omegas were prior alphas, yet no longer occupy the position of dominance. Omegas have been known to be the most playful of the wolf positions but lack the ability to assert their positions to any real degree. Interesting, the wolves documented in The Hidden Lives of Wolves shows a beta showing compassion to an omega. However typically, this position takes the most abuse. The omega may go without food if prey is scarce and may became a scapegoat of sorts.
In-betweens

Between beta and omegas are the juvenile, subordinates, and pups. Packs in North America range in size from 20 wolves per pakc in the Denali Forest in Alaska to about 10 per pack in places like Minnesota.

Resources:
Hidden Life of Wolves Jim and Jamie Dutcher, National Geographic
Wolfdog Behavior http://www2.fiu.edu/~milesk/behavior.htm

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