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The essential social unit is the pack, typically composed of a mated pair, their offspring for the year, and a few offspring from previous seasons. A typical pack runs from two to 12, though ones up to 36 have been reported. There are nomadic wolves, but most packs have a fixed home range. Pack size is dependent upon space free of other packs, the type of game available and the abundance of game.

The dominant members of the pack is the alpha pair. In a pack, only the alpha pair breeds and this pair also suppresses breeding in all other pack members. However, all pack members will help care for pups and feed them as well. Packs can also succumb to pressure from neighboring packs and not breed that season.

Breeding, hunting, feeding, territorial maintenance, and play behavior are all tied to the social structure of the pack. There is usually a hierarchy among the females and among the males. Pups also have their own separate hierarchy. The social hierarchy is not based on wit, but usually on size, with the largest dominating.

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