Dec 7, 2015

The Hidden Life of Wolves

by Jim and Jamie Dutcher

This beautiful book describes the social lives of wolves. It's based on six years the authors spent living alongside a wolf pack in Idaho, to study their behavior and social interactions. The insights they gained prove that wolves are caring, family-orientated animals with strong social needs. That they appear to mourn the loss of packmates, use playtime to alleviate aggression across dominance roles and teach each other new skills. It is not related as a storyline, but instead a detailed description of what was learned. The book skips a lot of the basic information that I've seen covered so often lately, and goes more into current issues. It discusses the implications of wolf re-introduction, in this case describing what was done in Idaho, occasionally mentioning the work with wolves in Yellowstone as well. There are a lot of recommendations on how wolves and humans can manage to co-exist, and their ideas on dealing with wolves preying on livestock takes the opposite approach most ranchers and wildlife officials seem to use. In brief: their findings show that removing 'problem' wolves and breaking up pack structure does not help- because young wolves lacking leadership will gravitate to easy prey, and newcomers drifting in to fill gaps will experiment with livestock predation as well. The longer term solution, the Dutchers suggest, is to teach resident wolves that livestock do not make good prey targets, because of the presence of dogs and people. If one pack learns to avoid livestock, it will teach its young that lesson, which can last through generations of wolves. The other big thing I learned from this book was the broad positive impact wolf re-introduction has had on many ecosystems. As this apex predator began preying on elk herds, the numbers of elk did not actually drop but their overall health improved and their behavior changed, which had a ripple effect everywhere. Improving the growth and diversity of plants and smaller animals in more ways than I had realized. What really makes this book a great read though, is not all the lovely writing but the beautiful photographs. It is very much a photo essay, a very striking and informative one.

I borrowed this book from the public library.

Rating; 4/5        215 pages, 2013

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