Beyond myth and legend

History of wolf studies

source: New Scientist vol 206 no
 2764, 12th June 2010 
starts p42, two pages long

Persecution of wild wolves made studying them impossible, so captive wolves were studied. Observers perceived a rigid pecking order, with only alpha wolves breeding. This view was changed by the studies of David Mech, who looked at wolves from Ellesmere Island, Canada, where hunting is banned. Mech saw packs as family groups. Texas University's Jane Packard was a co-worker with mech, and sees monogamous packs as more likely where wolves are not hunted, and there is abundant prey. Elsewhere, there is diversity, as with humans, for example, single mothers or polygamy. Packard also sees wolves as using social skills to live together, rather than bullies imposing dominance. A wolf can gain food from showing submissive behaviour, while pushiness can lead to conflict. Wolves can move from a submissive to an alpha position. Knowing when to defer and when to fight helps wolves to survive. Wolves  with these skills have emotional resilience, a trait which can also help humans under stress, and which social animals can learn to develop.