THE COMPANY OF WOLVES by Peter Steinhart


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 As befits the elusive nature of Canis lupus, more questions are raised than answered in this absorbing and thorough discussion of a much studied but poorly understood and unfairly maligned predator Steinhart, who has been a columnist for Audubon magazine, consults with North American wildlife biologists, park rangers, ranchers, trappers, hunters, and even private wolf owners, eliciting a multiplicity of responses to a wide range of issues. Does the wolf on its own lower the number of prey animals such as deer and caribou, or are climate and human hunting more important limiting factors? Do wolves pose a threat to domesticated livestock? Should the wolf be artificially reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere? What are the genetic standards by which wolves should be judged for protection under the Endangered Species Act? In addition to presenting the proponents and the research behind these often heatedly debated issues, Steinhart unveils some of the observable facets of wolf life as well as speculating on wolf consciousness. Among the more fascinating topics are the reasons wolves howl; the requirements for attaining the rank of alpha male; the almost extrasensory perception exhibited by wolves in encounters with humans; and the evolution-based differences in intelligence and behavior between domesticated dogs and wolves. Steinhart is not sanguine about the future of the species. As wolf populations decline as a result of human habitation, ``the grave threat is that eventually there will be broad areas without wolves and the sharing of genes.'' The author thoughtfully adds appendices covering additional readings, places to see (or hear) wolves, and subspecies of the gray wolf. A well-balanced and highly informative report on the long and continuing scientific, economic, and politically charged debate.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41881-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995