About a book: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West. By: Nate Blakeslee
“It was all about showing up.”
This book focuses on the wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone Park. It does so by following a wolf and her surrounding pack members, documenting her story. She is 0-Six, an alpha female and founder of the Lamar pack. By following 0-Six, it puts a personal face to the wolves. It is brilliance in storytelling and does really make you fall in love with wolves and aware of the complexities of the wolf debate.
This book is full of drama. It is full of action. It is full of relationships of all sort and kind, it can be seen as a love story in certain ways. It is part science and part political. It is part hunter and part hunted. It is an intricately woven story, that in the end leaves the reader to form their own opinion about wolves. It shows the incredible kindness that a wolf can have as well as the ferocity that is known about wolves. This book is worth reading and I’ll guess, re-reading.
The main wolf watcher in this book is a man named Rick McIntyre. “On December 12, 2009…was the 3,467thday in a row that he had spent in the park, looking for wolves.” And after 20 years in Yellowstone he had documented “over eighty-five thousand wolf sightings.” He was dedicated to the wolves in Yellowstone. He had kept a daily log of wolves on a recorder and then typed his records into his computer. “He had more than eight thousand single-spaced pages of notes…saved on his computer.”This is a huge amount of work and it was said of him, “he had watched more wolves…than anybody in the history of humanity.” He loved wolves and this book is possible because one man showed up, day after day; he simply showed up because of his care and love for the wolves he watched.
As much as this book is about Rick’s watching of the wolves, it is also about the political struggles surrounding the wolf’s reintroduction into areas where they had been killed off. It is amazing to see how people have failed to manage the wild. This book makes it seem that there are really only two positions about wolves; kill no wolves and kill all wolves. And both sides take it very personally. One woman told Associated Press “It’s very personal to me, I want them eliminated.” She seems to represent many on her side of the fence, as the wolves destroy their flocks and take away their meager livelihood. There are also those who think wolves shouldn’t be allowed to be hunted at all, that they are special animals and all of them need to be protected at all cost. This book had all the political intrigue and drama of Watergate.
The two sides of this debate tend to agree on one thing and one thing only; that Politicians thousands of miles removed from the park with no on-the-ground visibility should be making the decisions about these predatory animals. Yet the political arena is where the fight for wolves is taking place. To be fair there were those who had a bit more balance in the debates. They, “...didn’t think wolves should be hunted near Yellowstone…but wasn’t against wolf-hunting in general.” There were also some that just didn’t want collared wolves to be shot, but didn’t mind if wolves that preyed on livestock were hunted.
I won’t really comment on the politics of the wolves because I have no skin in the game. I can see both sides of the arguments and find areas of agreement and disagreement with both, but then again, I don’t live in wolf country and my flocks are not getting destroyed by wolves. My opinions about wolves won’t impact the way I live, and so they would remain only academic or in my mind. I don’t think this is a fair place to be to the people on the ground. Even though the personal issues have come as a surprise to me, I respect the livelihood of the debate and think that both sides need to keep fighting to figure out what is right in this not-so-simple issue of wolves.
As I write and share my comments about the wolves in this book, it’s important to note that I have read one book about wolves. I admit that the reintroduction of wolves back into the greater Yellowstone region and beyond has been extremely controversial.
As you get past the politics, it shows the greatness of wolves. They are extraordinary animals, with extremes of kindness and ferocity side by side. They will love their own and demolish an opposing pack. They will even love their own, and if their pack gets out of line the Alphas will rule with a sharp fang. This book and the lives of the wolves can teach us about ourselves and how we live. We can find ourselves in the wolves, both the good and the bad.
There is a quote from Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” that starts of this book:
“All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel…Think about it. There’s escaping from wolves, fighting the wolves, capturing the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves, or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. Best of all, turning into the head wolf. No other decent stories exist.”
This quote rings true in this book. You could feel a wide array of emotions, both for and against wolves. You might cry at the sadness of death, and the beauty of new life. You might laugh at the funny antics of both animals and humans. You could fall in love with wolves or you might fear their brutal tactics of survival. In the end this is a book worth reading.
American Wolf page 39