In deepest Devon at the Wildwood Escot Estate live a pack of six wolves; four intact males and two neutered females. They live in perfect harmony without any animosity, aggression or an apparent alpha. They recently arrived from a zoo in Denmark via Sweden and are the subject of collaborative observation.
In the 1950s/60s, Davis Mech, PhD conducted studies on a pack of captive wolves in Ellesmere Island, in modern day Nunavut (previously part of the Northwest Territories), Canada. This concentrated primarily on observing the interactions of pack members with each other and with pups around a den. He observed a hierarchy relying on domination and the aggression of an alpha, usually a male. The conclusion was that ALL wolves, and indeed dogs, acted this way. What he failed to allow for was that the pack consisted of unrelated animals living in a false environment. This has resulted in a myth that persists today with some dog trainers emulating this ‘pack theory’, using domination to obtain results. (Wolves and dogs are of the same species – however, a dog is NOT a wolf and should not be treated as such). It is now understood that a wolf pack consists of a group of typically five to seven related animals sometimes adopting orphaned pups and even accepting outsiders. Whilst a hierarchy exists, the pack does not usually resort to violence and the alpha pair only occasionally show aggression, for example to keep a juvenile in its place! Violence may erupt in the event of an attempted pack take over, either internally or from an outsider. Competing packs will keep a respectable distance apart with the use of howling (wolves seldom bark).
So how do the Escot wolves live in peace? One theory is that they do not have to compete for resources or females and all are still young. In time, of course, this may change, so we watch with a great deal of interest and anticipation!