On-the-ground reporting on the fate of Canis lupus as a creature once nearly extirpated struggles to regain a home in the Rockies.
Think life is tough for American humans? Try living as a wolf, even with the putative protection of the federal government in Yellowstone National Park. As Thomas McNamee reported 20 years ago in The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone, reintroduction was a venture as much political as ecological. Now comes Texas Monthly writer Blakeslee (Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town, 2005) to chronicle just how true that observation remains. The author serves up two protagonists: a renegade biologist named Rick McIntyre who, more than any living individual, was instrumental in returning the wolf to its former home and keeping it safe there, and a wolf named O-Six, an alpha female who was a star in the social media world thanks to some canny promotion by reintroduction activists. As Blakeslee tracks O-Six’s movements through the Lamar Valley of Wyoming and surrounding areas, he examines the lives of other wolves in and around the park, some in her pack, others in competing wolf clans. O-Six’s travels led to tragedy, as he writes; he interviews the hunter who killed her, who proudly tells him, “I’m against wolves…I want to make sure that’s clear.” It is. Blakeslee takes pains to try to understand the views of hunters and ranchers while making sure that it’s similarly clear that the wolves merit a place in the sun. Along the way, he examines the long and ongoing back and forth of listing and delisting the wolf on the federal list of protected species, the wolf being, to many in the western states affected, a sort of federal agent and therefore automatically suspect.
In the main, Blakeslee’s well-rendered story will be familiar to anyone who has followed the Yellowstone wolves, but those who have not will find this a solid overview of recent events—evenhanded but clearly and rightly on the side of the wolves.