Alpha wolves don't exist

24 Aug 2018

The alpha wolf doesn’t exist. It’s a myth based on a 1947 study of captive wolves from different families.

In the wild a wolf pack is made of a mother, father, and their juvenile pups less than three years old. Zoos would capture an intact wolf pack family, put it in an enclosure, then add an outsider wolf or two. The outsider realizes he doesn’t belong and tries to escape. But he can’t because he’s confined, so there’s a continuous fight for dominance.

[It] is analogous to trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps.

Mech, L. David. Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor in wolf packs, Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77:1196-1203, 1999.

This myth was published and promoted for decades. In 1999 a former proponent of the alpha wolf theory, L. David Mech, issued a correction. Scientists occasionally have to say Oops and issue a correction, and not on the back page of the newspaper. They stand at a podium in front of hundreds of their peers and say I was wrong, and this is how and why it happened. When was the last time a politician or theologian had this kind of courage?