by Bruce Hampton ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1997
A survey of the wolf's peculiar role in North American history--first as an enemy of civilization, now as an object of pity. When Europeans first arrived on the continent, wildlife biologist Hampton (Children of Grace: The Nez Perce War of 1877, 1993) writes, they encountered two types of beings in abundance: Indians and wolves. They declared war on both, and, Hampton observes, ""in numbers, for every twenty wolves that once roamed North America, by the mid-twentieth century less than one remained."" The wolves were wily; in one wonderful anecdote, Hampton recounts that over time some wolf packs learned to dig up and spring the traps that had been set for them, pile them up in a heap, and crown them with excrement. Despite such taunting resistance, wolves all over the Lower 48 soon fell victim to a vigorous program of eradication conducted by the federal government at the behest of the livestock industry. Now, after the wolf has been rendered nearly extinct in many places, attempts are being made to reintroduce it in the Yellowstone National Park and the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona; those attempts, Hampton notes, were furthered early on by forward-looking legislation by, of all people, Richard Nixon. All this makes for a useful survey, but many books published in the last 15 years relate the same history, notably Barry Lopez's Of Wolves and Men and Rick McIntyre's War Against the Wolf. It does not help that Hampton too often reduces his tale to a dry recitation of the facts, without much narrative flair; neither does it help that although Hampton is a trained biologist, he does not shed much light on the fascinating biology of the wolf (he does, however, provide a useful sketch of its evolutionary history). For readers with a casual interest in wolves, however, Hampton's book will be of interest.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997
Page Count: 298
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996
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