Book review: American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

We used to believe that humans were the only ones who were capable of using tools.  Then Jane Goodall told us about how chimps made and used tools, had social hierarchies, and were basically a lot more like us than we had previously realized.  The work that Rick McIntyre has devoted to observing wolves has the same implications, except with wolves.  While many know that wolves have a social hierarchy (alpha and beta wolves in a pack), the stories in this book brought to light their complex social structures and their capacity of feelings of joy and grief.

American Wolf is a non-fiction book about the wolf reintroduction program at Yellowstone National Park and its impact on the people, animals, politics, geography, and the ecosystem.  It follows a wolf known as 06 (O-Six) who becomes the alpha female of the Lamar pack.  Not only was she the alpha female, she was the leader of the pack.

The stories were incredible.  I often forgot that this was a nonfiction book.  Nate Blakeslee did an amazing job of making 06 come to life without sensationalizing.  The book was well documented, as evidenced by the extensive sources cited section.  I loved that the book allowed readers to see the different wolf personalities and the dynamics of the wolf pack without anthropomorphising the wolves.

I felt the author did a fair job of presenting the arguments for people who were anti-wolf reintroduction.  There were some legitimate arguments, especially about ranchers who were losing livestock to the wolves, but it’s hard to argue with the what happened after the wolves were reintroduced (more diversity in the ecosystem).

I’ve already recommended this book to other people and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.