Nov 29, 2015

Romeo

the Story of an Alaskan Wolf
by John Hyde

I had not heard of this story until I found the book by chance on a library shelf. It might have been a better read if I had, because although the writing is thoughtful and descriptive, it also has an oddly disjointed quality, jumping into the subject matter without much introduction and wandering between current observations, the biology and natural history of wolves in general, the author's musings on their role in nature and their relationship with man. A good reason to think on all these things: in Juneau, Alaska a young black wolf appeared and for six years in a row resided near the lakeshore during winter months, where he would approach people who were out walking their dogs. The wolf wanted to socialize with the dogs. There are many images and videos online of him doing so. I though it would be really interesting to read about the individual interactions, as the dogs often misread the wolf's intentions, acting aggressive or timid, and Romeo would trick them into playing tag with him. But the book is more a photo essay than anything else, and the author mostly only reports interactions he viewed, just as often mentioning finding the wolf's tracks or hearing it howl, knowing it was in the vicinity but not in sight. His photographs of the wolf and the landscape are simply gorgeous. The brilliance and detail of closeups are stunning, but I really liked the wide shots that showed the wolf a small figure in a vast landscape of ice, snow and glacial formations.

I do want to know more about this wolf; I found there's another book about him- A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans which I will look for someday. His story reminds me a lot of the whale Luna, who also approached people seemingly for companionship and became something of a problem when people were warned not to engage with it, but of course no one could control what the whale did. And the wolf also met a sad fate, as its habit of approaching people finally brought it within easy reach of someone who had no compunctions. Wildlife officials did attempt to teach the wolf to keep its distance from people using noise and harmless missles, but this only caused him to avoid those particular individuals and unfortunately did not save him from harm.

Rating: 3/5       134 pages, 2010

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