How Do Wolves Communicate?


Communicating by Gesture

  • Wolves use body language to demonstrate their dominance or submission, emotions and state of mind. To show dominance, an alpha male, or sometimes an alpha female, will stand taller than the other wolves and carry their tails higher than other members of the pack. They will look directly into the other animal's eyes. A submissive wolf will maintain a lower body profile, may paw at the ground, urinate in crouching position, or in a total passive move, roll onto their back showing their vital organs to the dominate wolf. To show anger, a wolf will bare his teeth, point ears up and forward, and open his mouth. To show suspicion, a wolf will squint her eyes and put her ears back. To show fear, a wolf will have flattened ears.

Communicating by Scent

  • Wolves also use scent to communicate. To indicate to others where their territory is, wolves will mark theirs with urine or scat. Members of the pack apparently can recognize the scent of their own pack-mates. Males can determine when females are ready for mating by scent. Also, wolves rely on their strong sense of smell to find food or pick up on enemy scents.

Communicating by Sound

  • Wolves' sounds can be broken into three categories. Barking is used as a warning, perhaps for a mother to protect her pups, or to show aggression to an intruder. There is also a sound known as whimpering, used by mothers to their pups to indicate a readiness to nurse them, or to calm the pups. It may also be used to demonstrate submission to dominate pack members. Finally, there is the howl. This is primarily used to communicate over long distances. Wolves may howl to help rally or gather the pack. Howling may be used for social reasons. A single wolf who has been separated from the pack may try to relocate the pack by howling. It may also be used as a call for help.

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