“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
– Rudyard Kipling, The Law for the Wolves
A wolf pack is an extremely well-organised family group with a well-defined social structure and a clear-cut code of conduct. Every wolf has a certain place and function within the pack and every member has to do its fair share of the work. The supreme leader is a very experienced wolf – the alpha – who has dominance over the whole pack. It is the protector and decision-maker and directs the others as to where, when and what to hunt. However, it does not lead the pack into the hunt, for it is far too valuable to risk being injured or killed. That is the responsibility of the beta wolf, who assumes second place in the hierarchy of the pack. The beta takes on the role of enforcer – fighter or ‘tough guy’– big, strong and very aggressive. It is both the disciplinarian of the pack and the alpha’s bodyguard.
The tester, a watchful and distrustful character, will alert the alpha if it encounters anything suspicious while it is scouting around looking for signs of trouble. It is also the quality controller, ensuring that the others are deserving of their place in the pack. It does this by creating a situation that tests their bravery and courage, by starting a fight, for instance. At the bottom of the social ladder is the omega wolf, subordinate and submissive to all the others, but often playing the role of peacemaker by intervening in an intra-pack squabble and defusing the situation by clowning around. Whereas the tester may create conflict, the omega is more likely to resolve it.
The rest of the pack is made up of mid- to low-ranking non-breeding adults and the immature offspring of the alpha and its mate. The size of the group varies from around six to ten members or more, depending on the abundance of food and numbers of the wolf population in general.
Wolves have earned themselves an undeserved reputation for being ruthless predators and a danger to humans and livestock. The wolf has been portrayed in fairy tales and folklore as a very bad creature, killing any people and other animals it encounters. However, the truth is that wolves only kill to eat, never kill more than they need, and rarely attack humans unless their safety is threatened in some way. It has been suggested that hybrid wolf-dogs or wolves suffering from rabies are actually responsible for many of the historical offences as well as more recent incidents.
Wolves hunt mainly at night. They usually seek out large herbivores, such as deer, although they also eat smaller animals, such as beavers, hares and rodents, if these are obtainable. Some wolves in western Canada are known to fish for salmon. The alpha wolf picks out a specific animal in a large herd by the scent it leaves behind. The prey is often a very young, old or injured animal in poor condition. The alpha signals to its hunters which animal to take down and when to strike by using tail movements and the scent from a gland at the tip of its spine above the tail.
Wolves kill to survive. Obviously, they need to eat to maintain strength and health but the way they feast on the prey also reinforces social order. Every member of the family has a designated spot at the carcass and the alpha directs them to their places through various ear postures: moving an ear forward, flattening it back against the head or swivelling it around. The alpha wolf eats the prized internal organs while the beta is entitled to the muscle-meat of the rump and thigh, and the omega and other low ranks are assigned the intestinal contents and less desirable parts such as the backbone and ribs.
The rigid class structure in a wolf pack entails frequent displays of supremacy and respect. When a higher-ranking wolf approaches, a lesser-ranking wolf must slow down, lower itself, and pass to the side with head averted to show deference; or, in an extreme act of passive submission, it may roll onto its back, exposing its throat and belly. The dominant wolf stands over it, stiff-legged and tall, asserting its superiority and its authority in the pack.
Classify the following statements as referring to
A the alpha wolf
B the beta wolf
C the tester wolf
D the omega wolf
Write the correct letter, A, B, C or D in boxes 1–6 on your answer sheet.
NB You may use any letter more than once.
1 It is at the forefront of the pack when it makes a kill.
2 It tries to calm tensions and settle disputes between pack members.
3 It is the wolf in charge and maintains control over the pack.
4 It warns the leader of potential danger.
5 It protects the leader of the pack.
6 It sets up a trial to determine whether a wolf is worthy of its status in the pack.
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?
In boxes 7–13 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
7 Wolves are a constant danger to humans.
8 Crossbred wolves or sick wolves are most likely to blame for attacks on people.
9 Canadian wolves prefer to eat fish, namely salmon.
10 The wolf pack leader identifies a particular target for attack by its smell.
11 When wolves attack a herd, they go after the healthiest animal.
12 The piece of a dead animal that a wolf may eat depends on its status in the pack.
13 A low-ranking wolf must show submission or the dominant wolf will attack it.
9 NOT GIVEN
13 NOT GIVEN