If you need help figuring out how to roleplay wolf behavior, you're in the right place! Keep in mind, wolves have personalities and you should not use traits from this guide directly into roleplay. Use this to help you understand the behavior and life of a wolf.
Joining and Leaving a Pack
Join a Pack
At first you might want to join a pack -- however, keep in mind that not all of the packs will allow new wolves. There will be some packs that may be too large, and won't accept loners. In that case, you will either have to join another pack, or adopt a wolf.
When joining a pack, your wolf won't be accepted right away. Your wolf must hang around the pack's territory for some time until the pack gets used to its presence. Lone wolves will most likely be chased off if they trespass into a pack's territory. In order to be accepted, your wolf must show complete submission to the higher ranked wolves like the alpha pair and beta. Whether you are a male or a female, you must gain permission from the alpha male first -- though you have to gain acceptance from both alphas at one point.
Submission is usually key for an unranked new wolf. Joining wolves may howl at the borders to attract the attention of pack wolves, or they can linger around the borders and wait -- either works. When approached, a joining wolf should lower his/her body and keep his/her eyes off of the pack wolf, looking to the ground. The tail should tuck firmly between the legs (but not against the belly -- such extreme submission is usually reserved for reprimands) and the ears should be kept at half-mast, halfway between pricked and pressed.
Submissive postures include:
- Tail between the legs
- Exposing the stomach
- Licking the alpha's jaw (in some cases)
- Grooming (in some cases)
- Lowered head
- No eye contact
- Flattened ears (Keep in mind flattened ears and layed back ears are not the same. Layed back ears is dominant)
Leaving Your Pack:
It is common for young wolves to leave their packs to join another, or form their own. However, that's risky because your wolf can die without the pack's protection. Note that there isn't room for more new packs in the rp, you are only allowed to rove. If your wolf decides to leave it's pack permanently, or for roving, it most likely won't be stopped by the other wolves.
It's the process of rejecting, and removing, a wolf from the pack by the alphas. Only the alphas have the right to evict other pack members. Usually the alpha female kicks out the females and the alpha male kicks out males, however sometimes the alpha males may evict females. Females are evicted more often than males are, because they can mate with rovers and become pregnant, which is against the pack 'rules'. However, wolves, male or female, are frequently evicted due to challenging the Alpha of the same gender and losing, or just being rebellious. The wolf is usually evicted after losing the fight for supremacy. Sometimes unrelated males are caught by the alpha trying to mate with the females. This may result in him being kicked out.
Wolves are very social animals and have a hierarchy. If one can't get along, especially with the alpha female or male, it's most likely to be evicted. In some cases, old wolves that become lazy and unable to help are driven out by the alpha male.
Summary of reasons for eviction:
-Challenging the alpha of the same gender and losing. (Females and Males)
-Being rebellious. (Females and Males)
-Non-alphas becoming pregnant or giving birth to unwanted pups. (Females)
-Being very aggressive with other pack members and often getting into fights. (Females and Males)
-Inability to help out the pack, usually old wolves. (Females and Males)
-Caught trying to mate with the pack females. (Males)
Roving and Breeding
Roving and Mating
A roving male is a wolf that left his pack to find females to mate with in other packs. It's completely different from a dispersal wolf. While a dispersal wolf won't return to his pack and will try to steal a female to start a new pack, a roving male will mate with a female from another pack and return to his former pack. Rovers don't take females with them, though in some cases they may wander away with the female to ensure a successful mating, and then return to their respective packs. Roving can be done only by adult males. They will try to rove at other packs. The males of that pack may chase him away or a female may see him first and mate with him. The other users of that pack will decide what to do. Only males can rove, and they must be at least two years old.
Roving is not as easy as it sounds, and young rovers might not be successful their first time. It helps to go accompanied by other experienced males. While roving males will get a hold of any female if they get the chance, the big prize is the alpha female, because it ensures the pups' survival. Of course, alpha females are harder to get, because they are often guarded by the alpha male. Usually, only older and experienced wolves manage to mate with these desired females.
Males typically rove alone or in pairs. Only large groups have a better chance at joining a new pack. The oldest male leads the roving coalition, and if that group joins a new pack, he will most likely take dominance. In some cases, the young rovers may act as decoys. While they are being chased by the resident males, the experienced rovers mate with the females, though this may change each time they rove.
Males go roving only when it's mating season, which can vary from late fall (late November) to late winter (late February or early March). Some males may start hanging around packs in late November, where they usually start preparing themselves and picking 'victims'. However, real roving activity increases in January and February, when they can actually mate with the females. A lone rover won't be able to survive on its own for more than one or two weeks, so make sure to return to your pack or you could even go a few ranks down. Once you return to your pack, you must show submission towards the higher ranked wolves. Although roving is a helpful activity for subordinates to pass their genes to the next generation, there are several risks involved.
Here is a list of the negative aspects of roving:
- Your wolf can be either killed or attacked by the pack it's roving at.
- Your wolf can die of starvation due to the lack of food in winter.
- If your wolf is away for a long time it might go a few ranks down in the pack's hierarchy.
- If several males leave the pack to rove, a different roving coalition may take over the pack and not let your wolf rejoin.
- In rare cases during your wolf's absense the pack can move territories or be forced to flee, and your wolf would be unable to find them again.
Here is another list of the positive aspects of roving:
- Pass genes to the next generation.
- Have multiple litters in one single winter, (if your wolf succeeds).
- No need to care for the pups once they are born.
- Chances of taking over or joining a different pack raise (accompanied).
- Avoiding the alpha's rage/moody behaviour in winter.
The alpha female will keep all the breeding rights to herself and will not allow any other female to become pregnant. If another female breeds, the leader will most likely evict that female. In some cases, the dominant female will kill the offspring of the other female. She may kill all of the pups, or just the weak ones.
When wolves are 2 - 3 years old, they often disperse permanently. Low-ranking females feel the urge to have pups of their own, so they might start seeking out rovers, though most of them are evicted before they can give birth. Pregnant females must be at least two years old to have pups or to even mate. No one year and a half pregnant females please. They can not just suddenly have pups. Females must mate in order to produce pups, and females get in heat only in winter. A pair must mate several times to ensure pups. Once mating occurs, the female must wait 59 to 63 days to give birth.
When the time to mate arrives, don't give many details, or it can get uncomfortable for some players. You are always allowed to make a private chat with your selected mate and give all the details you want (of course that won't be posted in the general rp archive).
Although it's commonly said that wolves mate for life, there is a lot of varied information out there. There are some cases where a male wolf keeps two female wolves as his mates, and some cases where wolves leave their mates and seek new ones. Also, some males may mate with two females in the same year. Alpha males must guard their mate from roving males. If the alpha gets distracted, the alpha female may be attracted by a rover.
Alpha females may attack subordinates not only to exert their dominance, but also to prevent them from breeding. When subordinates females are attacked by the alpha, it decreases the estrogen in them and so reduces their chances of coming into oestrus and breeding. Therefore, the dominant female will ensure her pups get the best start in life.
Pregnancy also triggers aggression in female wolves and so increases the demands of dominance. Sometimes even subordinates will not submit to the alpha female when pregnant, which will lead to dominance fights and may result in dominants being overthrown and evicted or subordinates being evicted permanently.
The alpha female must make sure that no other females breed in the pack, though in some cases subordinate females may mate with rovers and become pregnant. In this case, the subordinate female will be punished and most likely evicted in spring before giving birth. Subordinate females will usually abort their litters or just abandon them to rejoin the pack. If she is not evicted, the alpha female will most likely kill the pups.
Spontaneous abortion occurs in various animals. Viral infection can cause abortion in wolves, though it's commonly induced by the female. The reason could be to not be kicked out by the alpha female, in other cases a pregnant lone female will abort her pups being unable to provide them food, also when a female (either alpha or subordinate) feels like her resources are extremely limited and knows she will not have enough to nourish the fetus, the fetus will be aborted as a survival mechanism. In rare cases it could also be induced by the alpha female constantly harassing the pregnant female, but this is extremely rare. Eviction doubles the probability for an abortion in the case the evicted female was pregnant, and it results in a severely impaired ability of the evicted female to successfully conceive.
Pups and Teens
When the alpha female has her pups the whole pack will help out. When the group goes out hunting or patrolling, the pups will be watched by selected wolves often recognized as babysitters. Their job is to stay at the den and watch the pups until the pack returns. Mature females are able to nurse the pups in the mother's absence. Nursing puppies feed four or five times per day, and they gain two to three pounds per week.
At birth, wolf pups cannot see or hear. Their sense of smell is limited, and they are entirely dependent on their mother. Their movements are “limited to a slow crawl” and they are unable to regulate their own body temperature.
Pups are extremely playful and love to explore whenever given the chance, which often leads to the pups wandering off. Though adults stop them from venturing too far. Because of their playful nature, there is little difference in each pups personality. For now, all they want to do is play and cause trouble for the busy adults.
Teens are not that different from pups. Teens still have their puppy personalities, and just want to have fun playing with each other. But now that they are teens, their personalities really start to show. Teens will start to show more dominance or submission, which really starts to determine their rank. The teen stage is the maturing process from pup to adult wolf. Even when a teen becomes an adult, a wolf never really loses their playful personality, though they may restrict it with age.
Adult wolves can do more to help out the pack than pups and teens can. Adult wolves can go hunting, babysit, and overall take on more responsibility than non-adults. Pups have various stages of their life, each of which is full of development and learning from the pack.
Here are some of the Stages:
- 10 - 13 days: Eyes open and are blue at 11-15 days but their eyesight is not fully developed. Pups cannot perceive forms until weeks later. Begin to stand and walk. Vocalizations include growls, whimpering, and squeaks -- the first high-pitched attempts at howling
- 3 weeks: the milk teeth appear, and they start to explore the den. Ears begin to raise around 27 days and hearing improves significantly.
- 4 - 5 weeks: short trips outside the den, begin to eat meat. Ears are erect but with tips still flopping. Canines and pre-molar teeth present.
- 6 weeks: moving up to a mile from the den (with an adult wolf)
- 6 - 8 weeks: pups are weaned, travelling to rendezvous site.
- 12 weeks: begin to travel with the pack on hunts (with adult wolves)
- 15 - 28 weeks: milk teeth are replaced
- 7 - 8 months: begin to hunt with the pack
- 1 year: Epiphyseal cartilage closes off, signaling the end of skeletal growth. Pups status in the pack may start to take shape, with pups displaying either more dominant or submissive behaviors.
- 2-3 years: Hormonal changes signal sexual maturity -- may choose to disperse from pack.
By the end of their development, the pups have turned into intelligent, playful young teenagers.
Wolves typically live in family groups called "packs." In the wild, most packs consist of two parents and their offspring, although some packs may also contain a relative, such as a sibling, of one of the breeding wolves. In some cases, an unrelated wolf may be allowed into a pack. A dominance hierarchy exists within all wolf packs, and because pack hierarchy is very important to wolves, much of the body language wolves use is related to affirming it. There are four different classes of wolves within a wolf pack. These include:
The Alpha Pair
Sometimes referred to as the breeding pair, the alpha pair consists of a male and a female wolf. These are the two wolves which will, generally, mate and produce offspring. These are the two top-ranking wolves in the pack, and they are dominant over all other wolves in the pack. They often (but not always) direct the activities of the pack. The alpha pair is usually unrelated -- however, if one of the two die, one of their sons/daughters will take over. An alpha should maintain the appearance of dominance most of the time.
The Beta wolf is the second ranking individual within the dominance hierarchy. They show commitment and loyalty to the pack, also acting as a discipliner to reinforce the Alpha's decisions. The Betas stand in as Alpha when the Alphas are not present. Life for the beta wolf can be quite good. They have good access to resources such as carcasses, and when conditions are really good, they may even breed and have pups. The beta male may attempt to mate with the alpha female during mating season and the alpha male must chase him away to make sure he doesn't. The same thing applies to the beta female, who may try to entice the alpha male to mount her until chased away by the alpha female. Beta wolves will commonly provide for other members of the pack through hunting and providing food and protection to the pups. There can only be one beta male or female.
These would include the other wolves in the pack who are subservient to the alpha pair. These are usually young animals, but occasionally are former alphas who have lost their positions. If they remain with the pack, subordinates play a strong and important role in helping care for and feed the pups.
Many wolves packs contain one omega wolf which may be appear to be mistreated by other pack members. They are the lowest in rank, last to eat, and often somewhat ostracized by other pack members. When the pack travels, they may be seen following at some distance. An omega is required to be submissive at all times. However the omega may act dominant toward an unranked wolf if he pleases (but omegas should note that generally newcomers are accepted at a default subordinate rank, thus making the newcomer immediately higher than the omega).
These would be young wolves that have not yet secured themselves a position within the pack's hierarchy. However, young wolf pups will "play-fight" and this often results in the formation of a dominance hierarchy among the juveniles. This juvenile hierarchy often changes frequently.
Fighting and Attacking
Wolves fight and attack for many reasons, and fights always have purpose in a wolf pack. They could be over territory, rank, or even small things like eating order or a problem that was never resolved.
Fights and attacks are often over territory. Wolves are very territorial -- with good reason. A pack's territory symbolizes how strong and powerful they are, along with providing a home for pups and pack members. For example, a small territory could make it clear that the pack is just starting off, and could be easy to gain territory from. However, a small territory could also mean the pack is sick, and its members are dying off. However, a large territory could tell other wolves that the pack is strong and its numbers are increasing. They would have plenty of room for the pack to expand and fertile lands for growth and prey. If a pack trespasses onto another pack's territory, often the foreign pack will be chased off -- unless the two rival packs fight for the territory. The winning pack will chase the other pack out of that portion of the territory, claiming it as their own with victorious howls and marking.
Late November to late February or early March is the time period referred to as "Mating Season". During this time, many attacks will occur. The alpha female may snap at the other females, reducing the chance of them coming into oestrus. By snapping at the females, it decreases their levels of estrogen. However, if a female is caught by the alpha female with a rover or another male, the alpha female will aggressively attack the female, asserting her breeding rights. The alpha male is usually near the alpha female at all times during mating season, helping him find rovers in his territory. He will attack the rover, chasing him out angrily. Males must be at least a year to chase out other males, though. In some cases, the other males from the pack may chase out the rover themselves.
Often, rank is the cause of fights. The beta wolf may challenge the alpha female or male; however, the same sex challenges itself. For example, only a male will challenge the alpha male. The same goes for females. A subordinate wolf may challenge the beta, and in some cases, even the alpha. There is always a fight between the two wolves, victor gaining rank. If the subordinate wolf makes the alpha or beta submit, that wolf assumes a dominant position as the alpha. However, this doesn't always happen, unless the dominant wolf is old, sick, or injured. The old alpha or beta will become subordinate, or even omega, though it's rare for that to occur. Rank has its benefits, too. By being more dominant (rank wise) a wolf can have more authority over pack members. The victor may decide to whether or not to kick out the defeated wolf.
The main principle is that you cannot dictate whether an attack hits or not, unless there's realistically no way for another character to squirm out of it. It's the other person who decides whether the attack connects. If you attempt to dictate the outcome of an attack on another character, it's considered powerplaying. On the flip side, if the characters are matched in skill and your character repeated squirms out of attacks unscathed, it's considered godmodding. Be fair. Neither is considered good for the thread, and the outcome of each fight relies on the ability of the players to judge what is realistic given the circumstance.
There is no numerical or calculation-based side to fighting. Determined skill is based mostly on each character's age, physique and experience. When fighting, use common sense. If one character is much larger than the other, then surely he will have an advantage. Similarly, if one character has been in dozens of fights before, he will probably do well against someone who hasn't been in as many. Once again, the key is to play fair. In most situations, to avoid conflict, players should negotiate the conclusion of a fight out of character beforehand. If you feel the other player is fighting unfairly you can ask for a neutral third party to make judgment calls, but ideally, it should never come to that because it is the player that should know his or her character and their abilities best.
Hunting and Feeding
Naturally, wolves hunt to eat -- not for fun, or as a sport. Wolves will typically eat any kind of prey in the area, ranging from buffalo and caribou, to rats and mice. Larger prey is generally only hunted in groups. Small prey can be taken down by an individual. Group hunts are a very special occasion for a wolf pack, usually called together by either one of the leader ranks. Once the hunting party is gathered, they track animals and isolate a good candidate for slaughter. Once this candidate -- usually sick, injured, very old, very young or otherwise vulnerable -- is selected, the hunting party will chase the herd, causing chaos among the animals with the purpose of separating them. And once the animal is surrounded or cornered, they take turns slashing and trying to find a good hold on the prey. Wolves' jaws are capable of crushing necks, and throats are also a favorite place to hold.
Alpha wolves typically eat first after a hunt, followed by the beta and then subordinates. The Omega eats last and usually gets the scraps, and sometimes, when moody, the alpha pair may prevent the omega from eating. Pups and young wolves without a determined rank are allowed to feed at any time. Wolves follow a feast and famine type diet, and will gorge on a meal and then not eat for a couple of weeks. Wolves can eat every 5-6 hours when there is plenty of food available, or they can fast and live on scraps for 2 weeks when there is less food around. Wolves eat their food very quickly, probably to protect it from being stolen, and to decrease the chance of attack from other predators. They eat the best parts first, and come back later for the remains, as they can't afford to be wasteful. They will hide food in the snow, or icy soil, which helps to preserve it and protect it from scavengers.