Monday, November 27, 2017

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

In American Wolf, the reader is introduced to the wolf reestablishment program for wolves in Yellowstone Park.  Hunted almost to extinction, this program has been a success, bringing wolves back to their habitats throughout the Rockies in states such as Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.  While the program was a success with environmentalists who were heartened to see an ecosystem restored, it was greeted with anger and dismay by the ranchers who wanted the same land to graze their cattle and the hunters that felt that the wolves would threaten their livelihood of arranging elk hunts.

This controversy is illustrated through the life story of one particular wolf.  She was the alpha female of a pack and was known as O-Six for the year of her birth.  Park rangers and wolf-watchers followed her life from her infancy through her childhood to her mate selection and establishment of her own pack.  They watched as she hunted, fought off other wolves interested in her territory and as she successfully raised several litters of puppies.  She was a favorite of the watchers for her skill and grace and her intelligent creation of her pack.

But the book doesn't just talk about the individual wolves.  The author also explains the legal battles going on in court between those interested in saving the wolves and those who wanted to eradicate them.  He also explains the environmental benefits of the wolf introduction program.  While some say that it hurts the elk population, others talk of species that benefit.  For example, the beaver population exploded.  This happened because as the elk adjusted to the new predators and moved upward in the valleys, the willows they ate in the creeks had more chance of survival.  Since the willow is an important part of the beaver life, it helped more beaver to survive.  The coyote population was reduced to a more stable number as the wolves were the superior predators and as the coyote population lowered, that of small rodents who were their prey, rose. 

The author also talks about the humans involved.  He explores the work of specific park rangers, men who have dedicated their lives to rescuing and assisting wildlife.  He talks about the men and women who have made wolf-watching their life work, going out every day without fail to observe the wolves and make copious notes of their observations.  The arguments of hunters are examined along with an in-depth study of one specific hunter.  The reader will walk away from this book armed with an extensive knowledge of all sides of this compelling topic.  This book is recommended for readers of nature books and those interested in environmental topics.

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