Posted by: greentangle | June 12, 2014
In late 2003, a large black wolf began appearing around Mendenhall Glacier on the outskirts of Juneau, Alaska. He was tolerant of humans and loved to hang out and play with dogs, sometimes carrying small ones in his mouth (and maybe he killed a couple though he generally released them). Author Nick Jans lived in the area, and along with many other people, spent the next six years observing these fascinating interactions.
Much as I would feel in those circumstances, Jans felt incredibly fortunate about his own good fortune but also protective and fearful of what might happen to the wolf as a result of spending so much time around humans. The book relates many anecdotes about events involving Romeo, and also explores the deep schism in attitudes toward wolves which I’m very familiar with from living in northern Minnesota and Yellowstone.
On the first page of the book, Jans describes the wolf running towards him after they’d had a few experiences with each other. “I’d seen my share of wolves over the years, some point-blank close, and hadn’t quite shifted into panic mode. But anyone who claims he wouldn’t get an adrenaline jolt from a running wolf coming straight in, with no weapon and no place to run . . . is either brain-dead or lying.”
I’ve stood face to face with a captive wolf’s paws on my shoulders, and know well how extremely rare it is for a wolf to attack a human (another subject Jans discusses in the book). But on a winter day when I was hiking alone above Mammoth Hot Springs and the alpha female of the Canyon pack crested a hilltop running straight at me with loud howling coming from others out of sight behind her, you can be sure I immediately changed direction and moved back toward Mammoth (not that I would have made it had the wolves actually been coming for me) so I’m very familiar with that adrenaline jolt.
As anyone can learn on the internet, this isn’t a book to be read by anyone looking for a happy ending. A couple pieces of human scum, one with a history which included minors and molestation and one who proudly showed photos of killed animals to strangers, who specifically wanted to hurt anyone who cared about the wolf, eventually succeeded. And there was no justice.
People who care about wilderness and wildlife often have to turn to fiction for justice so I’ll mention a series of ecothrillers I’ve been enjoying—not great literature but fun for us radical treehuggers. Buffalo Medicine, inspired by Buffalo Field Campaign, is about the bison vs. cattle, park vs. ranch brucellosis nonsense around Yellowstone. Alpha Female, which I just started reading, is about Yellowstone wolves and wolf haters, and Trapped is about trapping and poaching in Yellowstone and Glacier, and the law change from a few years ago which allows people to bring guns into national parks. The books are written by April Christofferson, who is the mother of the former YNP ranger who wrote the book I reviewed in the previous post.