Never Cry Wolf
Farley Mowat: Never Cry Wolf (New York: Little Brown, 1963)
I have friends with whom I can start an argument by bringing up the subject of wolves. There is little doubt that the reintroduction of wolves into the Yellowstone Park ecosystem has had some very positive results. The decrease in the elk herds has meant that there are more willows by the streams. This has led to an increase in the beaver population. More beavers means more dams, more dams means more ponds, more ponds means more moose, and down the road more meadows. But if you are a sheep rancher near Yellowstone Park (and I know some) you probably will also notice some significant losses. Wolves are opportunistic eaters and they pretty much hunt and eat whatever is handy and available.
So I am not prone to be as romantic about wolves as is Mowat. Nonetheless, there is a significant degree of truth in his writing. I don’t know what has engendered such fear of wolves and such irrational animosity toward them. Wolves pose very little danger to humans. Unlike other apex predators such as the grizzly or the mountain lion, there are no reports of wolves killing humans except in fiction. I’m not saying it never has happened, just that it isn’t something that one needs to fear.
Underlying the discussion is the simple fact that Mowat is a master story teller and his book presents the story of wolves in the way that an academic study might never have done. Yes, he does bend the facts a little bit. The criticism of the book is, for the most part valid. But sometimes the best way to tell the truth is to tell a story and Mowat has certainly told a compelling story with this book. For lovers of the north country and lovers of the animals and people who live there, this book provides a window on a place that few will ever visit.