American Wolf, by Neil Blakeslee, is a book that brings two very different points of view into focus to see the impact of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park in the mid 1990’s. Wolves have always been a political problem with the hunters and ranchers on one side, and those who loved the wolves on the other.
The book captured my interest very quickly. The story was a major news event years ago but that only served to enhance my interest. I may have overdone my review because I also have comments about this book on both the daily comments and stories section of my web site that mention this also.
Rick McIntyre is a biologist who spent much of his life in this part of the country and he recorded a wolf sighting, and what took place in their lives, every day for much of 15 years. Many wolves had special tracking collars and McIntyre’s detailed daily notes and work presented an insightful look into the lives of the wolves. His notes and the life of one female wolf who was labeled as 832F but better known to tens of thousands of people as 06 really comprises the one side of the issues presented in this book.
To present the other side of the issues the author interviewed many of the hunter’s points of view and included a lot of detail on the political insight that took place into trying to stop the introduction.
It was intended that the Elk population would be reduced with wolf’s introduction, but much more happened, and many felt that the wolves saved the park. The wolves changed the coyote population which helped the bears. This increased the rodent population which increased bird population. The streams changed with increase in beaver population, due to more feed being available , with the Elk being more cautious and spending less time in the low valleys.
06 was a big, barrel-chested alpha female whose home was in the Lamar Canyon Pack. In this part of the park she led a formable pack for years and had pups over several years. Rick McIntyre’s notes and knowledge had made this wolf world famous. The author interviewed the man that shot 06. He was a dedicated hunter using the new open hunting season that had opened up near the park. He was proud of his kill and had 06 pelts hanging on the wall of his home. A few weeks earlier, 06’s pack mate, a beta male she sometimes bred with, was shot and killed in Wyoming as well.
The killing of 06 set off a firestorm of controversy about the collision between wildlife management, science, and hunting that occurs at the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. The killing led to concerns over whether hunters used the GPS signals to go after these particular wolves to push back against their protection. The collars cost the government $4,000 each and over the 17-year study had provided invaluable research information. 06, her pack mate, and 2 other wolves with collars were shot in the Lamar area along with 10 others near the park borders of which 5 of those also wore collars.
In a story that so clearly shows how important the correct balance in nature is and which detailed so much about the lives of the wolves it was a book well worth reading and if you remember these events re living.