Great American Wolf

Bruce Hampton, Author
Bruce Hampton, Author Henry Holt & Company $35 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8050-3716-6
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8050-5528-3
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Yes, this is a thoroughly researched book about the North American wolf. More importantly, it's a profoundly sad book about some Europeans' historic drive to colonize, Christianize and eradicate native peoples, the wolf and perhaps anything else of potential profit. The European colonists, Hampton explains, brought with them to the New World the notion and myth of wolf as devil. They came to a land where Indians had lived with the wolf, treating it with reverence even when they killed it--which they did only for its skin and in numbers that never threatened the wolf with extinction. Once the settlers had all but wiped out the buffalo, antelope, moose, caribou and elk, the wolf turned to domestic livestock to survive. As Hampton puts it, ""the wolf became the object of a passionate, often irrational, sometimes brutal hatred that humans ordinarily reserve for members of their own kind."" Bounties were enacted and shootings, scalpings, blindings, torchings, even dynamitings of wolves began in earnest. By the 1960s, however, despite the efforts of the livestock industry, and in part because of the publication of Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf and the work of zoologists, naturalists, ecologists and conservationists, the wolf's public image began to change. For many, Hampton contends, the wolf represents the true free and wild spirit of this country; and, for them, wolf reintroduction programs can be considered a conservation success. Hampton (Children of Grace, 1993), a wildlife biologist, writes with a cool detachment. Readers may wish for a more anecdotal, less serious voice, but he seems to stand aside out of respect for his subject in this well-considered study of the lupine legend. Illustrations not seen by PW. Rights (except electronic): Don Congdon. (Jan.)
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