The SC-CARES wolf pack came to us as young pups at the age of 8 weeks. There is one male and four females, all siblings.
They came to us as Captain Jack, Calypso, Dutchess, Cira and Anna Marie, named after characters in the the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Rescued from a roadside menagerie where animals were being bred and sold to anyone, we agreed to take this family so that they wouldn’t be sold off to the general public.
In way too many cases, wolves and wolf dogs are sold to people who think they can keep the wolf as a companion animal. Sadly, too often the wolf’s instincts don’t make that situation a safe scenario. Wolves are highly evolved and their instincts to protect their pack and their predator/prey instincts often times can cause great issue.
The SC-CARES wolf pack were bred between an Alaskan wolf (mother) and a British Columbian wolf (father) which is why three of the wolves are predominately white and the remaining two are more black.
In 2006 when they arrived as 8-week-old pups, we worked with them hands on every day for months. We wanted them to be touchable so that we could work with them more comfortably and apply medications or brush them if need be, but that did not turn out to be the case. If you’ve ever been bitten by a puppy you probably remember how sharp their teeth are.
Well, a wolf pup’s teeth are a little worse and we have the scars to prove it. After several months we were seeing no progress with them feeling comfortable with us, so we decided that the wild instincts they had were more powerful than we could overcome. It was not fair to them and selfish for us to cause them such stress each day and make no headway.
When they arrived, the pack seemed to be established with Captain Jack as the alpha male and Calypso as the alpha female. It was obvious when we walked into their enclosure because the other wolves would hide behind these two as if they were the leaders and protectors of the pack.
As soon as it was safely possible, Captain Jack was neutered. The females were left intact because the anesthesia for wolves is so risky our vet thought it best to avoid it unless we had complications.
The first two years were great, but when the wolves reached their second birthday, everything started to change. The girls were maturing and who was going to be in charge of this pack was up for grabs. Displays of dominance were an everyday occurrence.
We contacted other wolf rescues to seek advice and counsel as to how we should handle what they were going through so that we could make sure we were doing all the right things. We were very fortunate to find Jeremy Heft, a wolf biologist at the Wolf Center in Idaho. Jeremy had been on Animal Planet with his pack called “The Sawtooth Pack” and was not only very knowledgeable about wolf behavior but nice to offer his help to us anytime.
Corresponding with him at that time was a weekly thing. We learned that the more attention we paid to the dominance issues the worse we were making it, so as hard as it was, we had to learn to ignore it. The louder and more ferocious the sound the less likely for injury there really was.
In order for wolves to survive in the wild the hierarchy must be abided by. In a pack of wolves there is an alpha male, alpha female, betas and omegas. The alphas (in the wild) would be the only wolves to breed and these two would be the hunters responsible for finding food for the entire pack.
When food was captured the alphas would eat their fill before the others wolves were allowed to approach the meal. This helps ensure their survival as the lead wolves.
At SC-CARES’ pack our alphas are Captain Jack and Dutchess. What is odd about Dutchess being the lead female is that she is smallest of all the female wolves so we know it’s not about size, but attitude. The pack decides who is strong enough and smart enough to take this position. The dominance trials are all tests that each individual wolf will carry out to test that leader and make sure they’re qualified to protect and care for the pack.
Next in order is the beta, somewhat the middle child. Their responsibility is to help care for the young pups when they’re born, a nanny, so to speak. The betas also help maintain order. They’re often referred to as the clowns of the pack – if a situation is getting too heated, the beta’s responsibility is to create a distraction, to cause a pause in the feud so that no member of the pack is gravely injured. This is Cira in our wolf pack.
Last but not least are the omegas at the bottom of the hierarchy. This does not mean they aren’t important. The omega must constantly submit to his fellow pack members and are sometimes persecuted by them or treated as a scapegoat. However, omegas often make the initiative in play, thus helping to ease tensions in the pack. The two wolves in the omega positions are Calypso and Anna Marie.
The SC-CARES pack has been thriving and doing well for eight years now. We were fortunate to be able to build them a larger, new enclosure years back and recently built a den and waterfall into a pool. The water recycles back into the falls and in the heat of summer you can often catch them in the top of the waterfall cooling their feet.