Download Episode: Wolf Kill Wolf! (MP3 file 3,519 kB)
Wolf kill wolf
Wolves are social animals, but their sociability doesn't usually extend to their neighbors. Wolf packs establish and mark territories, which they fiercely defend, and wolves will kill other wolves that intrude. The leading cause of death for wolves in Alaska is intra-specific competition - wolves kill most of the wolves that die in Alaska each year.
There are 7,000 to 10,000 wolves in Alaska, generally living in packs of about seven animals. Each pack is led by a dominant pair, the alpha male and female, which are the breeding pair in the pack. This pair typically has a litter of four to seven puppies each year, and the entire pack cares for the young. When the pups grow, these young wolves typically disperse, setting off on their own. That can put them in the territory of a different wolf pack, and often, they aren't welcome.
Wolves also fight when one pack trespasses into another's territory. Most of the time, wolf packs avoid each other, which is why they continually mark their territories. But wolves are constantly "probing" neighboring territories, and it doesn't take long to pick up on vacancies, which they are quick to take advantage of. Wolves are also quick to detect intruders. Most fights happen on the edges of territories.
Fights are often deadly, and often, the large, assertive alpha males or females are killed. Within packs, fights between the dominant and subordinate wolves are rare, because conflicts are resolved with ritualized displays. But when packs fight, it's serious business. Wolves fight to kill, and bite with skull-fracturing force.
Click here to view this episode in separate page.