Wolves’ senses differ a lot from that of other related species and this defines a particular way of acting in a wide range of situations. Let’s see some aspects of wolf behavior and what could be behind it.
How wolves’ senses work
Wolves have a relatively weak sense of smell compared to that of certain hunting dogs. Wolves can smell carrion from 1.2-1.8 miles. Although they can easily find and follow rabbit trails, they can’t really catch any. Still, wolves held in captivity are able to smell what their owner has eaten.
Moreover, wolves’ hearing is very sharp. They can even hear the sound of falling leaves. They are able to hear sound with a frequency of 26 kHz, which is significantly better than in the case of foxes. The urban legend that says wolves are afraid of string instruments seems to be true. Wolves in captivity have shown signs of low sounds.
Last but not least, their sight is not that good as dogs’ sight but they can see extremely well during the night.
Literature paints a universal picture about wolf packs. We always see a well structured social group with a strict hierarchy.The pack is lead by the alpha couple which gets to the top by fighting. They are closely followed by the beta wolves and then comes the rest of the pack, the omega. This classification has been made based on packs held in captivity, where wolves with no blood relations decided this by fighting.
Wolves in the wild, on the other hand, are more like families based on a pair and their pups. Wolf packs from the north are not that united as those of African wild dogs or spotted hyenas. However, they are more united than coyote packs. Wolves in the south has a similar behavior to those of coyotes or dingo dogs, which choose to live in couples.
A usual pack of wolves is made of 5-11 animals: 1-2 adults, 3-6 young wolves and 1-3 wolves of around one year. There are packs as big as 42 wolves. Packs rarely adopt outsiders, they usually kill other mature wolves. When they do, though, they mostly accept young animals (1-3 years old). The process has a ‘trial period’ of a few weeks. This involves some investigation and a number of nonfatal attacks to see if the newcomer can be trusted.
In periods of the migration of hoofed animals, several wolf packs temporarily join their forces. Wolves between five months and five years leave their pack to start a new family. The at of leaving the pack is in close relationship with sexual maturity and the competition for food and mates.