My cousin recommended this book to me and, oh man, am I glad she did. I swear, I don’t think I have ever cried so hard reading a non-fiction book before.
This is an examination and history of the reintroduction of wolves into the Yellowstone Valley. It’s a very broad look at the entirety of the re-introduction project started in 1995 following through until around 2014 or so, as well as getting really deep into the case studies of the various wolf packs, focusing predominantly on wolf 21 and his Druid Peak Pack and even more so on his granddaughter wolf 0-Six and her Lamar Canyon Pack. It is a credit to Blakeslee and his skill as a writer and researcher that these wolves and their families come to life, not in a Disney, anthropomorphized way, but as wolves, with everything that means, both the brutality of living in the wild and the intelligence and obviously deep emotion and personality these animals possess. 0-Six is a smart, powerful matriarch and her story is gripping and I am glad it has been told. In many ways I see her as a role model after reading this book.
He is also very interested in the people interested in these wolves, on both sides of the equation. We spend a lot of time with Rick McIntyre, the Park Ranger who spent 90% of his adult life watching the wolves. Along with a core party of volunteers he has been tracking their progress and behaviour, giving talks to the tourists who came to watch them, and working to help make sure they stay safe since almost the beginning.
We also meet Steven Turnbull, a local man who runs a tracking and hunting business just outside the park. He is not a fan of the wolves, they have hamstrung his business and made taking hunting parties out much more difficult. He wants the hunting ban permanently lifted because he sees the wolves as a threat to his livelihood. This is the part I liked the most about this book. Blakslee makes it very clear he is pro-wolf and pro-reintroduction, but even so, he does not at all demonize the hunters and other people who don’t want the wolves around. He gives them equal time and fair say. He does not treat them as stupid or selfish. They are not bad people, they are not heartless, they are people who have built their lives on wolves not being around. I think that is important, because while I am also very pro-reintroduction, this is not a simple, black and white question. These things never are.
He does, however, give the politicians involved plenty of rope to hang themselves with. It is very clear that there is a lot of shadiness going on in both State governments and Washington when it comes to land management. It’s one of those departments that kind of stays in t e wings and doesn’t get a lot of public attention, even though the decisions it makes can affect a great deal. This makes it very attractive and popular for political favors and the other kinds of trade-offs that politicians use to get their flashier, big ticket items to go the way they want them to. The legal business of the reintroduction was really fascinating and very frustrating. I’m glad he didn’t gloss over it.
This book reads like a novel, not a natural history textbook. I laughed and cried along with the ups and downs of the packs and the ups and downs of the people. I’m not a big re-reader of books, but I think there is a very good chance that I will end up rereading this one at some point. There is so much there, and it really is that good. I’m also planning a trip to Yellowstone. I always wanted to go anyway, but this book has moved it way up the list.
This is my True Story square on my Bingo card.