The Wolf is a profound account detailing the return of the world’s most enduring carnivore

Nate Blakeslee’s book is as much a report on the deep divisions within contemporary America as it is a tale about wolves.

The author of this deeply informed yet fast-paced and deftly structured book suggests that in the long, blood-soaked story of wolves and humans, the rise of agriculture was decisive. About 12,000 years ago, the world’s most successful terrestrial mammal became the enemy-in-chief to the second most widespread. By day, wolves threatened our livestock. By night, they haunted our nightmares. There could really be only a single outcome.

It has entailed the relentless extermination of one by the other, yet the largest single loss of territory in the shortest possible time has to be the grey wolf’s extirpation from almost all of the lower 48 states of the United States. In barely three centuries, wolves were cleared from three million square miles, with a surviving relic population only in a forested belt from Michigan to Minnesota.

The most shocking part of the process occurred in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, whose vast areas of montane forest were not only perfect for wolves but had enjoyed protection since 1872 as the world’s oldest national park. Here at least, one might imagine, the eerie nocturnal music of the Canis lupus might be tolerated. But in 1926, Yellowstone also fell silent. The irony was that the killing was done not by ranchers, hunters or fur trappers but by the very people tasked with defending Yellowstone’s pristine character – the park rangers.

It is a measure of the volte-face that conservationists have since performed on the issue of the wolf’s essential place in America’s wilderness that in 1995 they began to work towards the species’s return. That this was then met – and continues to be met – by opposition from almost every other rural constituency …read more

Source:: New Statesman

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