Dec 5, 2015

The Wolves of Yellowstone

by Michael Phillips and Douglas Smith

This book is about the program that re-introduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. In actuality it began decades earlier; the first voice advocating re-introduction of wolves was raised in 1944 (Aldo Leopold) but it took over fifty years for all the logistics to be worked out. That's mostly what this book covers- how the planning was put in place and worked through, difficulties that were overcome and views of success. There's very little about the behavior of the actual wolves themselves, especially because the wolves were deliberately given a lot of space- to keep them wild and unaccustomed to human presence. When brought from Canada and placed in acclimation pens they were mainly observed only at a distance. When released their movements were tracked via radio collars, not much else. Thousands of visitors were later delighted to view the wolves engaged in normal behavior. It's a very informative read, and I learned a lot about how much work and delicate public relations it took to complete this project, but missed the intimate style of nature writing I usually enjoy. I wasn't aware of the red wolf recovery program initiated years earlier in North Carolina before; this program in Yellowstone took notes from how that worked and did things a little differently, they outline the reasons and results well. There are lots of additional side paragraphs written by various people who were involved, usually relating the moment of initial release again. The most eloquent one was near the end of the book, by Renee Askins. I appreciated that all the photographs in the book were taken on site, so they are not all gorgeous and staged. Often a notable moment could only be described in words, as the wolves were too quick or nobody had a camera to record what happened. This re-introduction effort is more than a decade old now, so there's lots more up-to-date information out there about what happened to the wolves. I suppose there are other books that have been written since, which can give better insights to the impacts of having wolves back in Yellowstone, simply from the benefit of time. However if you want a behind-the-scenes look at how it was all initially made possible, this is a good resource.

Rating: 3/5         128 pages, 1996

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