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Social structure Wolves function as social predators and hunt in packs organized according to strict, rank-oriented social hierarchies. It was originally believed that this comparatively high level of social organization was related to hunting success, and while this still may be true to a certain extent, emerging theories suggest that the pack has less to do with hunting and more to do with reproductive success.
The pack is led by the two individuals that sit atop the social hierarchy: the alpha male and the alpha female. The alpha pair has the greatest amount of social freedom compared to the rest of the pack. Although they are not “leaders” in the human sense of the term, they help to resolve any disputes within the pack, have the greatest amount of control over resources (such as food), and, most importantly, they help keep the pack cohesive and functional.
The ranks in a wolf pack are the alpha pair, the beta pair, the delta pair, the elders, the sentinel pair, and the omega pair. Alphas are the most dominant, omegas are the lowest of all, being harassed and shoved to the side.
While most alpha pairs are monogamous, there are exceptions. An alpha animal may preferentially mate with a lower-ranking animal, especially if the other alpha is closely related (a brother or sister, for example). The death of one alpha does not affect the status of the other alpha, who will quickly take another mate.
Usually, only the alpha pair is able to rear a litter of pups successfully. Other wolves in a pack may breed, but when resources are limited, time, devotion, and preference will be given to the alpha pair’s litter. Therefore, non-alpha parents of other litters within a single pack may lack the means to raise their pups to maturity of their own accord. All wolves in a pack assist in raising wolf pups. Some mature individuals choosing not to disperse may stay in their original packs so as to reinforce it and help rear more pups.
The size of the pack may change over time and is controlled by several factors, including habitat, personalities of individual wolves within a pack, and food supply. Packs can contain between 2 and 20 wolves, though 8 is a more typical size. New packs are formed when a wolf leaves its birth pack, finds a mate, and claims a territory. Lone wolves searching for other individuals can travel very long distances seeking out suitable territories. Dispersing individuals must avoid the territories of other wolves because intruders on occupied territories are chased away or killed. It is taboo for one wolf to travel into another wolf’s territory unless invited. Most dogs, except perhaps large, specially bred attack dogs, do not stand much of a chance against a pack of wolves protecting its territory from an intrusion.(information from Wikipedia)