The Yellowstone Wolves by Gary Ferguson

1767930Nonfiction — print. Falcon, 1996. 174 pgs. Borrowed from a friend.

Subtitled “The First Year”, Ferguson’s book follows the lives of the first wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park from Alberta, Canada in 1995. The process was a long time coming. A wolf recovery team was created in 1974 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but efforts to reintroduce the wolf were continually stagnated by the public, politicians, and state governments around Yellowstone.

Nearly twenty years later, the reintroduction of the wolf is still a hot button issue in Montana, right up there with the migration of bison out of the Park. Other places consider it better form to discuss religion, money, and politics at dinner. In Montana, discussing wolves and bison is a surefire way to offend your neighbor. Interestingly enough, though, this book came into my hands via my mother from a woman who is fairly anti-wolf. She told my mother that it made her realize wolves are more than mindless, livestock killers.

I think that’s in large part to the way Ferguson writes this tale. He manages to blend just enough action and anticipation on the part of the wolf reintroduction team whilst still maintaining an approach that does not overly anthropomorphize the wolves to an odd degree. He rarely places emotions upon them, but rather tries to explain their actions in the context of what is known about wolves.

There is a lot of interaction between wolves and humans in the first year; much more than I anticipated. One point that stands out is the story of the recovery team traveling outside of  the Park to Red Lodge, Montana in order to rescue eight pups and their mother after the death of the alpha male wolf. Yet the wolves really carry the story as this short book shows how new packs are formed, babies are born, and the wolves live and die. I couldn’t help but root for them!



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