Alpha and Omega is a children's cartoon with almost enough innuendo and not quite enough plot to keep tweens and adults entertained. (Teens are probably too old for this movie and unlikely to enjoy it.)

The story

The story centers on two wolves. One is a female Alpha named Kate. The other is a male Omega named Humphrey. As pups, they were friends. Kate, however, is the pack leader's daughter and an Alpha. She is expected to marry the of the rival pack's leader's son, Garth, to merge the two packs and bring peace to the valley. Since the pack is engaged in a cold war, the marriage is needed. Before the wedding, a park ranger shoots tranquilizers into Kate and her friend Humphrey. Kate and Humphrey are transported to Idaho, to repopulate.

Is there any educational value to this movie?

My kids said they liked the movie, but they didn't jump up and down with excitement after it like they did withAvatar. The movie had decent entertainment value for my kids, but did it have any educational value? Several aspects of the story had me scratching my head. Yes, parts of the story matched up with werewolf fiction, but did it mesh with real wolves. I did some research.

Do wolves live in Idaho?

Yes. They do now. Back in 1993 they were all but extinct in the valley. People claimed to see a wolf here and there, but there wasn't a breeding pair. Wolves were taken from Canada, because of the similar climate and because both areas had elk, a source of food.

Is there more than one breeding pair in a wolf pack?

Not usually. I had always thought that only the alpha male and female got to breed. The cartoon made it seem like all the wolves could take mates. What's the real story?

Wolf packs typically form when an unrelated male and female meet and form a bond. They have pups. The mother, father, and pups are a pack. Female gray wolves come into season once a year. So, the next year they have more pups. The pack is larger. Occasionally a lone wolf joins the pack, and sometimes the pups decide to leave the pack so they can find their own mate and their own territory.

In rare cases when an abundance of food lives in the area, a second female might bear a litter of pups. It's very rare for multiple females to have litters in the same pack. The alpha female is likely to kill the offspring of the other female.

Good information for wolf breeding can be found at the International Wolf Center's web page called Frequently Asked Questions about Wolves.

Can more than one breeding pair exist in a pack?

Not usually. See above. It's unlikely.

Are Omegas real?

Yes. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet. Nowadays scientists seem to be learning toward calling alphas "breeding pairs" instead. The pack has a hierarchy and the lowest ranking adult is called the omega.

According to the International Wolf Center, a pack may have more than one omega, just like the cartoon movie showed. Also, like in the movie, omegas sometimes try to diffuse tense situations with distractions.

So, is there any educational value?

I think so. You could tell them all these things about wolves in a much shorter time than it takes to watch the movie, but I think it will sink in better with the movie. You should, however, go over some of the facts with your kids after viewing the show.

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