American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Many of us who are interested in the environment have seen the transformative effects of reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. (The technical term for this effect is a trophic cascade.) Once hunted to near extinction in the contiguous US, the resurgent wolf population in Yellowstone has been shown to affect rivers, elk and bison herds, and sadly, ranchers. While environmentalists have hailed the growing numbers of apex predator wolves, hunters have complained about the reduction in elk herds, and cattle ranchers blame wolves for culling their herds.
O-Six, ('06) made famous by naturalist Rick McIntyre and by the NatGeo Wild documentary She Wolf (which can be watched on YouTube), is the charismatic central figure in Nate Blakeslee's American Wolf. The collision of interests recounted with journalistic intent to providing balanced reporting leaves the reader no less saddened by the heartbreaking fate of this magnificent wolf. A rare female pack leader, O-Six managed to survive the collapse of her birth pack after the death of her father, the alpha, and rebound to build her own lethally efficient pack that sought control of the pristine Lamar Valley. Her pack, the Lamar Canyon Pack, and the tale of this wolf are thrilling. But the political and economic interests that swell around and against the successful reintroduction of wolves are those which reflect the present-day political and lobby interests working against environmentalists.
When you talk about wolves out West, the word you hear again and again is polarization. Environmentalism isn't occurring in a vacuum, and wolves don't see park boundaries. In the winter, if you can't catch elk, herds of cattle and bison owned by ranchers must look all too tempting. The opposing viewpoints brought about by the renaissance of packs of apex predators has been the subject of attention for a while and anyone who loves the idea of wolves returning to the Southern 48 knows of the death of O-Six at the hands of a trophy hunter. Her pack subsequently fractured, but the Lamar Canyon wolves are now led by O-Six's daughter, Middle Gray.
This is a beautiful, albeit heartbreaking book, with no easy solutions. The wolves should remain for the health of Yellowstone Park and the ranchers and hunters are definitely determined to remain, as well. While I enjoyed Blakeslee's writing the lack of photos in the book was disappointing. Not sure if this was due to expensive photo rights, but the book felt a bit barren for its lack of imagery.
I received a copy of this book from Crown Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.
View all my reviews