Making room for wolves

  • Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home

    edited by Gary Wockner, Gregory McNamee and SueEllen Campbell, 207 pgs, softcover: $15. Johnson Books, 2005

What do you get when you ask 50 people — only a handful of whom have actually ever seen a wolf — to write about new ways to "think about (wolves), imagine them, and welcome them home"? There are the inevitable odes to friendly wolf-dogs, and some wild stuff about kids suckled by volcanoes. But a lot of the writing in Comeback Wolves is pretty surprising, and a lot of it centers on the problem of how we make space for the real wolf — snarling, pooping, and lounging in sunshine — in our world and our minds.

It’s been a decade since wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone and the Southwest; wolves have turned up in Colorado and Utah. But it is clear that we are still utterly unprepared for their reappearance. In this world made wild again, as Jana Richman writes, "the wolf has to play by our rules." And M. John Fayhee, the former publisher of Mountain Gazette, points out that those rules don’t leave much room for wolves: Running a new ski lift to the top of the Continental Divide can drive a wolf into Interstate 70 traffic.

Splat. And, as Fayhee writes, "tough noogies."

There’s also a lot about possibility and hope, and that may be the point: We are all still sorting through the psychic implications of bringing back the wolf. "I can debunk wolf myths chapter and verse, using Barry Lopez’s Of Wolves and Men as hymnal," writes B. Frank. But no amount of imagining can prepare us for meeting a wolf face-to-face. Laura Paskus, HCN’s Southwest correspondent, points out that for those of us in the West, such an encounter could happen in any of our lives, at any time of the night. "Whether you hate wolves or love them," she writes, "any one of us would wake with a start, a pounding heart. What you do next is up to you."

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