THE NINEMILE WOLVES by Rick Bass

THE NINEMILE WOLVES

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Bass continues his essays about Montana (Winter, 1991, etc.) with this masterful life history of a contemporary wolf pack. In the 19th-century West, Bass notes, wolves were relentlessly trapped, poisoned, and shot; between 1870 and 1877 alone, 700,000 wolves were killed just in Montana. When, in 1989 and for the first time in 60 years, a wolf pack (soon dubbed the ``Ninemile'' pack) appeared in Montana, outside of Glacier National Park, locals divided into two groups: those ``for'' wolves, and those ``against''--the latter motivated purely by money, Bass says. The fledgling pack consisted of a male, a female, and cubs. When a farmer's calf was attacked, the female was anonymously shot, despite evidence that the calf had been attacked by coyotes. Several months later, the male--who had been bringing his youngsters food--was fatally struck by a motor vehicle, and the US Fishery and Wildlife Service had to step in to feed the cubs. At this point in the narrative, Bass's observation that wolves' lives are inseparable from human politics becomes depressingly apparent. The Montana Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Preservation asked the USFWS to remove the pups because they might affect Montana's biggest cash crop: deer hunters. The USFWS declined, and soon the orphan pack had taught itself to hunt. But freedom was short-lived. When two heifers were found killed, the USFWS tranquilizer-darted the pack and relocated the wolves. At their new home, two were shot by ranchers (despite a $100,000/one-year penalty if caught), and the last female was placed in permanent captivity. Throughout this sad, short history, Bass vividly renders the viewpoint of these green-eyed, magnificent predators, able to bound 16 feet when pursuing moose or deer. ``Wolves are the most social mammal...except (maybe) for humans,'' Bass says. An essay as rare and beautiful as a wolf-sighting in the Montana woods. (Photographs and drawings--some seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-944439-47-0
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992




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