OF WOLVES AND MEN by Barry Lopez


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In defense of the wolf and in a poignant appeal for recognition of its singular nature, Barry Lopez marshals an extraordinary amount of material: not just refutations of Jack London and evidence of limitations of biologist-observers, but also Eskimo perceptions, cross-cultural fable and fairy tale interpretations, historical and religious images, and an admission of his own ill-fated effort with two hybrid red wolves as pets. Lopez' reverence for the species and sense of outrage is acute: it is a measure of his intensity that the chapter chronicling the decimation of American plains wildlife (1850-1900) is called ""Pogrom,"" and particular excesses of the time, when perhaps two million wolves were slaughtered, are referred to as ""holocaust."" What he has done, even more than David Mech's 1970 The Wolf (which concentrates on one subspecies), is to document man's irrational, enduring antipathy toward an animal that deserves better treatment and to regret the character assaults that persisted long after Linnaeus and Darwin gave animal-watching purpose and direction. Lopez is not pretending that wolves are harmless creatures, but he is insisting that their complex social organization testifies to unusually strong inner resources, and he calls on Eskimo fundamentals and respect for the animal's survival skills to establish his case. (And, using several examples of formerly unobserved behavior, he suggests that their social system is still evolving--a tantalizing thought.) Despite the arsenal of such weight ammunition, not everyone will rush to join his holy war, but Lopez has demonstrated incontestably the discrepancy between society's image of the wolf and his true capacities.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0684163225
Publisher: Scribners