Ethiopian wolves live in discrete and cohesive social family packs that communally share and defend an exclusive territory. They congregate for greetings and border patrols at dawn, noon and evenings, and rest together at night in the open. Hierarchies within packs well established with frequent displays of dominance and subordination.
Dispersal is tightly constrained by the scarcity of suitable unoccupied habitat. Groups are formed by delayed dispersal of young males and a few females which, apart from those in the dominant position, are largely reproductively suppressed (Sillero-Zubiri & Gottelli, 1995b; Sillero-Zubiri et al., 1996). Breeding females typically are replaced after death by a resident daughter.
In optimal habitats family groups can contain up to 20 wolves older than one year, but most commonly around six, with an average communal territory of 6km². Larger packs defend larger territories, and packs would expand whenever the opportunity arises. Typically a mosaic of stable territories is formed that occupies all available.
When packs conduct border patrols, they scent-mark regularly and engage in aggressive interactions if they meet a neighbouring pack. These are highly vocal, ending with the smaller group fleeing (Sillero-Zubiri, 1994; Sillero-Zubiri & Macdonald, 1998).
In less suitable habitat, wolves live as mated pairs, sometimes accompanied by offspring, in larger territories (over 10km²).