Blending solid history with on-the-ground reportage, natural history writer Peterson (Wolf Haven: Sanctuary and the Future of Wolves in North America, 2016, etc.) turns in a spirited defense of Canis lupus.
The war on wolves is an ancient one. In the American West, where the author lives, ranchers fear wolves for their supposedly ravenous, profit-reducing hunger; elsewhere, wolves have been made into fairy-tale monsters. Against such clichés, Peterson serves up a few of her own, including the old saw about superior Native American wisdom in asking, “who speaks for wolf?” and the rather obvious nostrum, “to declare a person or an animal an enemy requires dehumanizing the other.” Much of the spiritual ground, so to speak, that she covers has already been explored in better books by Barry Lopez and Peter Matthiessen, while Thomas McNamee and Rick McIntyre (who makes an appearance here) have done more comprehensive work in studying the fate of the wolf population of Yellowstone National Park. Yet, while she does not surpass them, Peterson adds important information, including her account of the recently articulated mechanisms of “trophic cascades,” by which wolves are seen to have large implications for the health of wild ecosystems. “We are just beginning to understand wolf biology,” she writes before examining some of those implications as they center on the fate of one fallen wolf. Often, Peterson’s passing observations are as useful as the data she presents on wolves themselves. For instance, she notes, hopefully, that the millennial generation, though not identifying as “environmentalists” strictly speaking, are “the most environmental generation ever,” supporting clean energy, strong regulatory programs, wilderness protection, and, yes, wolf reintroduction. There are other good takeaways here as well, including a lively discussion of why wolves howl and what kind of “vocabularies” they employ when doing so.
Though with some overlap with the existing literature, a useful survey of the current state of all matters lupine.