Wolves and their packs have been a topic of many discussions for centuries. Their pack behavior has been likened to human communal patterns and wolves have been considered to be spiritual guides in many ancient communities. Few months ago we debunked a miscaptioned image related to a wolf fight in Sinhala as seen here.
On similar lines, we noticed a recent viral post on Instagram posted by a viral business intelligence page named Income Facts with 315,000 followers. The post which appeared on June 1st this year has over 72,000 likes to date and claims several things about wolf packs and their behaviour. The viral post can be seen below:
As can be seen, the viral posts make the following distinct claims:
- The older and sicker wolves lead the pack
- The next batch of wolves are the strongest
- The middle wolves in the pack are protected
- The wolves behind the middle of the pack are also among the strongest
- The last wolf at the back of the pack is the leader and ensures that no one gets left behind.
We deemed a fact check was necessary due to the high number of shares received by this post and the potential for the information to be incorrect based on our existing knowledge of wolf pack behaviour.
We began our verification process with a Google Reverse Image search for the photo presented in the viral post which indicated the same narrative had been posted by several others as can be seen below:
We also discovered that the original photograph was taken by Chadden Hunter for the BBC documentary Frozen Planet in 2011 according to the still images from the documentary film that were published in The Guardian on October 19th that year, as can be seen below:
The text accompanying the photograph tells us that:
“A massive pack of 25 timberwolves hunting bison on the Arctic circle in northern Canada. In mid-winter in Wood Buffalo National Park temperatures hover around -40°C. The wolf pack, led by the alpha female, travel single-file through the deep snow to save energy. The size of the pack is a sign of how rich their prey base is during winter when the bison are more restricted by poor feeding and deep snow. The wolf packs in this National Park are the only wolves in the world that specialize in hunting bison ten times their size. They have grown to be the largest and most powerful wolves on earth”
The text clearly indicates that the pack is led by the Alpha Female and not the weakest members. Hence, one of the claims in the viral post can be declared false.
A further investigation into the mobility of wolf packs brought us to several articles that also refute the various claims made in the viral post including the idea that the Leader remains at the back of the pack to protect it, since wolves are higher up in the food chain and have few or no predators, especially during winter. These articles can be found here and here. These articles also prove that while the alpha male / female term is disputed, most of the time it’s a strong wolf that leads the pack in a single file line when getting through deep snow.
Here is another passage from an explanatory article done on the above image.
Based on our findings, not only the claims made in the viral post are false, it was also published in 2015 and was refuted at that point too. It is clear most of the time, while traversing through deep snow, the pack is led by a strong wolf and there are no natural predators to be on the lookout for protection either.
Title:According To This Viral Post, The Weakest Wolves Lead Their Pack. Here’s The TruthFact Check By: Shanaya Seneviratne