American Wolf: ~ by Ned Blakeslee

Finished this a few days ago and didn’t get the review up here.  Bottom line up here at the top?  I’d say read the whole book because the most important and powerful parts are in the final chapters and the Epilogue but they made the rating what it is. And don’t just flip back to the end to read them – the whole story makes the impact.  I was totally wowed by the ending and picked it back up to check some details and then I expect I’ll be rereading some sections come November (when it comes up for discussion in the e Allnonfiction reading group  where I think I may have nominated it because it’s an interesting subject with a lot of controversial aspects.   (Actually, it was the subtitle which grabbed my attention. – blush & chuckle)

Fwiw,  I both listened and read in Audible and Kindle formats.  I wanted photos and maps and maybe sources plus the ability to read single paragraphs without having to hunt for 20 minutes.  I was totally pleased with the experience especially for the source notes which are exceptional.



American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West 
by Nate Blakeslee
2017/ 290 pages
read by Mark Bramhall – 9h 31m
rating:  9  –  natural history 
(read and listened)

I’m not usually a reader of books about animals, fiction or non-, but  sometimes … studies of animal behavior can be fascinating.  This one was kind of mediocre about that part – it was the human story playing out next to it that captured my attention.   The parts about the wolves themselves as they lived and traveled and hunted got quite confusing due to the names like “31,” or ”

There are some humans in the tale who really feature more than others  – there’s Rick McIntyre, and Laurie Lyman – the obsessive wolf watchers,  McIntyre features prominently but there are many whole chapters which focus on the packs of wolves which roam the Yellowstone area.  And there’s “Steven Turnbull” the man who shot O-Six.

Blakeslee takes the reader through several generations and families (packs) of wolves in the Lamar Valley located in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park.  Using the notes of the real wolf-watchers,  Laurie and Rick, he reconstructs the lives of these animals –  way more empathetic and human-like qualities than I ever really thought although having read about this prior I wasn’t surprised.

He also takes us to a couple of court sessions and legislative matters dealing with the issue of wolves as  “endangered species,” as well as re-introduction programs and that whole legislative tangle.

Although I’m a serious environmentalist,  I’m not really all that opposed to wolf hunts when they kill the animals the locals are raising for food.  I don’t like big-gun wolf hunting for sport at all and not even limited unless there really are too many for the immediate area to sustain.   I understand there are a lot of very complex ways an environment works,  but sometimes it gets out of balance and one species or another takes over.  We have to live with realities – not  what “should” or “should not” be happening.

Although there are some great chapters in the book with wild animal doings or legal shenanigans,  nothing beats “Chapter 12:  A Good Day in the Park”  with its tension and tragedy and aftermath.  That one chapter makes the whole book worth it – both formats- so the Epilogue is like a huge surprise wonderment.
This is a fabulous site – I found it by Googling ” how many wolves in Yellowstone 2018?”   Came up with the National Park Service report.    There are other good videos online including one about O-Six,  the wolf famous for her beauty and leadership was shot by a hunter.

Yellowstone site:

I bought both the Audible and the Kindle versions because I wanted the maps and sources and I just generally get a lot more out of a book when I do that.  I see how names are spelled,  I can reread paragraphs quickly and easily,  I can listen along and if I lose my place or get a bit mixed I can catch up or read again in the Kindle.  I don’t bother with crime books (they’re often better on Audible anyway) but it’s quite enjoyable on a lot of other books,  literary or nonfiction.

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2 Responses to American Wolf: ~ by Ned Blakeslee

  1. Carmen says:

    Nice review, Becky. You make me want to read this book. Wolves fascinate me. I found them so beautiful and enigmatic.

    Liked by 1 person

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