July Book Review - 'American Wolf' by Nate Blakeslee

Jul 9, 2019

A great theme in Western life is the relationship between man and Nature, or man and the untamed wild. That’s a strong theme in this month’s book review of American Wolf

American Wolf explores this theme of man and Nature through the life of one extraordinary Yellowstone wolf known as 06 for the year she was born. We know the facts of her life, thanks to the Yellowstone Wolf Project and its founder, biologist Doug Smith. From his helicopter, he tracks the park’s collared wolves, marking the range of each pack through the seasons.

For details of 06’s life, we owe Rick McIntyre, National Park Service wolf ranger, veteran at his daily post observing the Lamar Valley pack.

06 is a star subject, soon to become a park celebrity. We meet her, an already striking 3 1/2-year-old gray wolf with unique markings:

“A faint black oval around each eye, offset by twin wedges of white along the bridge of her nose (…) The overall effect (…) a vaguely owl-like mask, [giving] her a look of quiet concentration.”

Through the journals of Doug, Rick, and devoted note-keeper-with-binoculars, Laurie Lyman, we follow 06 as she chooses a mate, finds a den in the Lamar to whelp her pups, assumes leadership of her pack, teaching the males to hunt. Watch her become a superhero when grizzlies discover her den of newborns. Watch her against-all-odds defense of the pack against the huge and rampaging “Mollies” wolf army, savage killers bent on controlling the Lamar. You too may fall hard for 06.

In his book, Texas journalist Nate Blakeslee takes on the politics and science of wolves in the west. From Wyoming to Montana and Idaho, the courtroom scenes are almost as fraught as a wolf’s life. Wolves are reintroduced into Yellowstone, listed and protected. Their purpose: to restore health in the ecosystem. But hunters blame them for declines in elk, ranchers blame them for the loss of cows and sheep. Fish and Wildlife chooses politics over science, as studies continue to support the program. The wolves are embattled.

I recommend this thoughtful, engaging book, available at the Park City and Summit County libraries. For KPCW this is Julie Crittenden.