Cry Wolf

  • Gray wolf

    Erwin and Peggy Bauer
  With The Great American Wolf, wildlife biologist Bruce Hampton has written a book almost as compelling as the fiercely intelligent predator itself. Hampton, who lives in Lander, Wyo., first tells us how white hunters in the West sought to wipe out wolves, which were viewed as competitors in the taking of "helpless' buffalo, deer and elk. What some found most disconcerting was the realization that wolves could figure things out as well or better than humans. One hunter following a pack sat spellbound as an animal suddenly keeled over, apparently dead. When a raven trailing the pack flew down to peck at the prone animal, "the cruel jaws of the waiting wolf snapped upon the hapless raven and he was killed." Settlers feared wolves, seeing them root among the dead, and demonized them. Early conservationists don't escape their niche in this fascinating history: At the turn of the century, Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, found wolves abhorrent and supported their destruction. Only a few decades later ecologists Aldo Leopold, Olaus Murie and others began to see wolves in context and to understand the necessary role they played in the wild. Hampton, author of Soft Paths: How To Enjoy Wilderness Without Harming It, concludes his book with the nation's decision to recolonize parts of the West with wolves, and, he tells us, we have enough wilderness in the Lower 48 states to support a total of 7,000 of the animals. Will our tolerance stretch that far? Hampton notes the obstacles but reminds us how far we've come in a century.

A John Macrae Book/Henry Holt and Co., 115 West 18th St., New York, NY 10011. Cloth: $35. 308 pages. Illustrated with black-and-white photos.

*Betsy Marston

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