Some books you should never leave sitting on the shelf – when Crown Publishing offered to send me a copy of American Wolf to review, two months passed before I finally picked it up. I gave myself a good telling off for not reading this five-star non-fiction book immediately.
The enthralling story of the rise and reign of O-Six, the celebrated Yellowstone wolf, and the people who loved or feared her
Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West.
With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly renowned naturalist Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world.
But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park’s stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley.
These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multigenerational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the ongoing cultural clash in the West–between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country’s most iconic landscapes.
Publication date: 17 October 2017
I’ve always found wolves intriguing; they have this almost mythical quality to them. Prior to reading this book, the dire wolves from Game of Thrones were my favourite, but now, that title is firmly held by O-Six.
By the 1920’s wolves were eliminated from the lower 48 states of America, 50’s years later the federal government began the Reintroduction Project and by 1990, the project was in full effect – wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, which covers mostly Wyoming but also spreads into Montana and Idaho. American Wolf is the story of the reintroduction, those in favour and those against it, and most importantly the lives of the wolves themselves.
I knew this book would interest me due to my fascination with wolves but I had no idea just how enthralled I’d be reading about the lives of these wolves. The idea of wolf-watching doesn’t appeal to me personally, but that is how Rick McIntyre, and others like him, spent every day for near on 20 years, and oh my, does it make fascinating reading. If you shy away from non-fiction because it feels ‘too heavy,’ I urge you to give this book a try as it really does read like a novel, you get so caught up in the “plot” and form a real connection to the “characters.” And by characters, I mean the wolves, some you immediately like, and when another pack is encroaching on their territory, you view them as the enemy and pray their attacks aren’t successful. I enjoyed reading about the formation of the pack, who is the alpha and how they maintain that status, how as a pack they hunt and survive, care for their pups and fend off the enemy. Also, why a wolf leaves the pack and sometimes returns. Not only did this make extremely interesting reading, I learnt so much. While I would not like to come face to face with a wolf, I loved that they were portrayed as fierce yet tender.
O-Six, as the blurb indicates, is the star of the show and what an exceptional wolf she is – defying the odds many times to survive. If you enjoy reading books featuring a family through the generations, I highly recommend American Wolf, because it is a story of a family’s survival through the generations, their love and loss, hardship and joy.
American Wolf is also rife with tension! When the reintroduction began, wolves were safe under the Endangered Species Act but what happens when this protection is removed. A law is passed and wolf hunting begins. While the wolves battle it out in Yellowstone National Park, the humans battle it out in court. And when men take to the park with their guns, you’re holding your breath, hoping your favourite wolf is not slain.
My review doesn’t even nearly do this book justice, I loved it from beginning to end and I’ll tell you now, my favourite animal – wolves [at a distance, not as a pet!] Blakeslee is an incredibly talented writer and really engages you in this book; though wolves do not speak, Blakeslee ensures they are heard.