Scajaquada's Pack

So I have a wolf pack RP on IMVU. Surprise, surprise right?

~looks around innocently~ Okay well, maybe not much of a surprise.

Anyhow, since wolf social behaviors seem to be highly misunderstood, I figured a bit of an overview might be a good idea. Thus this is the post I shall refer new people wishing to venture into the pack's wilds to, in order to understand some of our behaviors.

Feral Valley is the room in question. This is considered our packs main room. We run a realistic sub-T1 RP. It is a casual RP of medium to high skill. Meaning that much of the rules I have discussed in the Fantasy Role-Playing 101 series apply. Also, being realistic, the animals or human visitors can only use skills or force which is approperate for whatever character they are playing.

Pack Structure:

Typically wolf packs consist of the mating Alpha pair. Their current pups, and yearlings (pups into their second year). At 2 years they become sexually active, and this is often when struggles for dominance begin. Many will flee the pack looking for 'love' elsewhere, unless they have formed very close bonds within the pack.

Males who venture off to become lone wolves, typically do not ever get accepted into another wolf pack. Most are forced to live on their own, or start their own pack by finding a lone female or stealing away a female from a pack, to mate with. Lone female wolves are often accepted into existing packs however. (In our situation, we will accept lone male wolves, who are not a threat to the alpha position, and who are good at role playing as a wolf). Males generally will be loyal to their birth pack however and try to work their way up its ranks.

Every pack has an omega... A low ranked wolf, who always seems to get picked on. It could be a family member, or a wolf who is accepted into the pack. It really just depends on the social statuses.

Beta wolves are usually siblings of the alpha. A beta wolf is often allowed a mate. But the ability to mate is often regulated by the alpha, based on the foreseeable food supply and whether he thinks the pack can support more pups.

Other pack members may be also allowed a mate. It really just depends on the pack size and the situations surrounding it.

Pack status can change dynamically. It is a long standing myth that wolves mate for life. The alpha in a pack may choose a different mate each year, or in some cases may mate with 2 or more wolves (while this is handy for me, being poly, this is actually factual as well). He may choose the best female fit for the job at hand, or may have a regular mate who he is well bonded too. Sometimes, surprisingly, that may be a blood relative. Inbreeding has been documented fairly readily in the wolf world, and researchers can't determine if the inbreeding causes any problems, as the pups seem to be just as strong and healthy as other pups.

All of the above generally applies to our pack. Its an exploration of the wolf culture, which has a history dating back 50,000 years. Back to a time when humans first started feeding wolves, and luring them in to become companions. This is a bond to an animal culture, which has lasted longer then any religion known to man.

Packs also have been known to split up on a regular basis and patrol their territory in smaller groups, or as lone wolves. They do not always stay together at all times. Just because a pack wolf is alone, doesn't mean it isn't a loved and well accepted wolf within the pack. It is just out roaming around, being curious. So this is good, as we can't always have every member of the Role-Play group in the room at the same time, and this makes for a good realistic cover for that.

We have no formal pack hierarchy, or attendance rules. Your stature in the pack is determined by your presence, your ability to role-play (as a wolf), and sometimes by non-lethal shows of dominance within the pack, where members may challenge others to gain stature by force. We only ask that in such battles you fight realistically, and in a non-lethal manner. Know when you have been beaten and bow down respectfully.

Rules were written for the pack in the later stages, but were never formalized.

Of course being the room owner, I, Scajaquada, will retain the right of being the dominant Alpha, unless I voluntarily hand it off to someone better suited for the task :)

Below are a few key body language markers.

Dominance:

  • head held high
  • tail partly or fully erect (partly erect is usually aggressive)
  • direct staring or eye contact
  • raised fur (hackles) along the back and shoulders (aggressive)
  • growl
  • snarl, bared teeth
  • side swiping, or body slamming subordinates
  • pining subordinates to the ground
  • upright ears
  • wrinkles forehead.
  • may bite the muzzle of subordinates
  • nipping or biting subordinates
  • may mount subordinate wolves in a mating style, not for mating purposes

Subordinate:

  • lowered tails (or curved right under their groin)
  • lowered folded ears
  • silly grin smile
  • lowered body position
  • may lick at the snout of a dominant wolf
  • lay on its side, and raise hind legs exposing its groin towards dominant wolf
  • may urinate on itself
  • may expose its throat to a dominant animal
  • may whine or squeal
  • may make small steps towards dominant wolves with a single front paw lifted

Communication:

Scent Marking:


Scent is one of the 2 primary senses of the wolf. The second being their hearing. Scents are used to communicate many things between wolves themselves. Scent glands are located at the base of their tail, behind their ears and along their neck.

Urine is also a very commonly used method of scent marking. In most cases urine will be sprayed every regularly while patrolling their territory. More frequently near their den and along the borders. Every member of the pack may help reinforce the packs markings.

Wolf urine, like human urine, carries a lot of information. Diet, health, sexual prowress, and even possibly what pack they are from. Scent marking can be used in many situations:

  • Marking territory
  • Marking prey as your kill (if you are a lone wolf) or your packs kill.
  • A challenge to another wolf (usually by the alpha, in a standing, leg lifting position)
  • A submissive gesture (where the sub wolf is laying on its side/back, and peeing on its self)
  • To arouse a mate, and sometimes during 'foreplay'
  • In greeting other pack members (usually after longer absences)
  • In extreme domination, where the alpha marks a subordinate

Any lone wolves marking in pack land will be viewed in a threatening manner. Tho sometimes latitude is given (at least in our pack room), in a stand off for the Alpha to sniff the new wolf's scent from a safe distance. Where the lone wolf marks, and steps away, letting the Alpha close to its scent to investigate. Wolves also examine the scat of other wolves to learn about them, however we generally do not RP that. If you are a new wolf, then you should probably describe what your scent tells about you, to help the learning process.

Alphas are the only wolves in the pack allowed to mark by raising their hind legs to spray sideways. Even Alpha females may demonstrate this behavior. All other pack members, even males, must generally spray in a squatting position. Tho, the most dominant wolf in the vicinity (if the Alpha isn't around) may demonstrate the behavior if they have their eyes on one day being an Alpha.

Ground scratching, usually after scent marking, leaves a little more scent from the paws. This can be seen as a territorial stance, to show a physical presence of the wolf's recent activity aside from the scent. This could be more common when there are disputes or insecurities over territory.

Sight, Hearing and Smell:

Hearing


Wolves have excellent hearing. They can hear other pack members howls as far as ten miles away. It has been reported that wolves can hear the tendon's in the legs of caribou, snapping as they walk from as far as 4 miles away in open tundra.

They rely on their hearing more so then their eyes for tracking, and keeping 'watch'. They can hear lemmings as they burrow and can usually hear the breathing of nearby larger animals. Some have also claimed that they can detect the heart rate of other animals to determine how afraid they are by the wolves presence.

Smell


As described above, wolves most sensitive sense is that of their smell. Aside from marking and scent rituals used between wolves for social status and territorial reasons, their sense of smell is also very capable of snuffing out hidden animals and food caches, even under several feet of dense snow. Wolves have a tendency to sniff out illness in their prey, and in other wolves. In most cases avoiding the ill wolves if they are not pack members. This is how rabies is naturally avoided in the wolf population.

It is hard to imagine how sensitive their sense of smell is, but imagine stuffing your nose into a gas can and taking a big sniff. Likely will make your eyes water right? Well wolves can get the same level of sensation, from a small dribble of gas on the dirt, at 10 feet away.

This is one of the methods wolves use to avoid humans. That of scent. As humans often have a very identifiable scent to them, which is often not natural.

Vision


Their vision is about that of a humans, however less able to focus at a distance. Their developed vision can see details out to about 75 feet, as which point things become blurry. They however are able to detect movement beyond that, even in their peripheral vision.

As far as night vision goes, they can see almost as well at night as they can during the day within their 75 foot visual range.

Vocal Communication:

Wolves use a number of vocal cues when communicating with other wolves. The most well known is obviously the howl. Wolves howl for a number of reasons.

  • To reassemble a scattered pack (either for hunting, or other reasons)
  • To locate other wolves
  • To call for backup / help
  • Upon waking up (to say good morning, where is everyone?)
  • After or during social excitement within the pack

Sometimes howls are just between two or three wolves, however communal pack howling will often be signified by a few sharp barks prior to the howl, during which every wolf is expected to join in.

Wolves will also growl, and snort. They can yip, but generally do not bark as dogs do under most circumstances. When nearby other wolves, they mostly do not communicate vocally.

Hunting and Prey:

Wolves are predators, and thus are required to hunt and kill in order to sustain themselves. This plays a role in the Role-Play as well, as hunting is often what brings the pack together.

Wolves are seen as care takers of the ecosystem. They prey upon the weak and wounded. In some cases researchers have noted that wolves seem to practice wildlife management techniques in order to keep herds of prey healthy and let them regrow, while they instead prey upon a different food source in another section of their territory. In many cases they may prefer a specific prey animal over others, and allow some prey to regenerate over time while they focus on other prey.

Wolves are usually assertive-aggressive. Defensive of themselves and their packmates, they are careful not to take on prey too big, or be overly aggressive given the situation. Even in combat with another wolf, a wolf typically will be assertive over aggressive, unless it feels threatened and cornered.

Hunting styles vary from wolf to wolf, and pack to pack. Some wolves develop excellent tracking skills, and others develop excellent ambushing skills. In any case, tackling the prey is the most dangerous task. With prey which have horns or antlers, the safest way is often to try to gain control of the prey's head. The antlers are attaches to the head, and therefore can not be used as a weapon in this case. Most prey will kick and buck as well, and therefore, the rump is a dangerous target. The neck is a tricky target in most cases, especially when countering a prey animal which is in full escape mode, and traveling quite quickly. The fore-legs of the prey animal can easily catch a wolf attacking the neck, and cause him to get trampled.