Thursday, September 08, 2022

Book Review: The Wolves of Alaska A Fact-based Saga, by Jim Rearden

The Wolves of Alaska A Fact-based Saga, by Jim Rearden, 335 pages, published 2002, Pictoral Histories Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana. Prices vary from under $20 new, to under $10 used, or about $3 on Kindle.

The Wolves of Alaska (Wolves) is a comprehensive, deep dive into wolf habits, management, and the politics of such management in Alaska.  It is written in an easy to read format, a "faction", a saga based on fact, with fictionalized names to protect the innocent, and give the guilty no action for a lawfare lawsuit.

It is a fine antidote to the misinformation perpetrated on the world with "Never Cry Wolf" by Farley Mowat.

Reardon was a legendary Alaska professor, guide, author, writer, scientist and civic minded volunteer.

He had a lifetime of experience, 46 years, in Alaska when Wolves was finished, about 1996. It would be six more years before it was published, in 2002.

Wolves relies on the best research, real world experience and information gleaned from several lifetimes in Alaska, dealing with wolves. Rearden had already written several books and interviewed people with a lifetime of study of wolves. While wolves are the most important characters in the book, a host of real and composite characters, made from the real lives of men and women, come to life in the pages of the book.

A favorite is Frank Glaser. Reardon devoted an entire book to Frank, several years earlier. Frank was a legendary hunter and trapper in Alaska.

Rearden was an early, perhaps the, main proponent of ending the bounty on wolves which had been with the state for most of the time since Alaska was purchased from Russia. The state eliminated the bounty in 1970.

Reading the book, you may be surprised to find somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of a wolf population has to die each year to maintain a stable population level.

You will find that wolves and bears are responsible for about 85% of the mortality in ungulate (caribou, deer, sheep, and moose and muskox) populations in Alaska. Hunters only account for 2-7 percent. Most of the mortality is in young animals.

Wolves has an abundance of facts  you can rely on. In addition, it is a good read. It kept my attention and interest. At times, it is a page turner.  It is an interesting way to both tell a story and deliver hard facts to an interested population. The facts would do a textbook proud. The presentation reads like a good novel.

If you like a good read, and want to know the facts about wolves, especially in Alaska, read Wolves.

Wolves goes to considerable length to explain the dynamic where misinformed urban dwellers, particularly professional women without children, become emotionally attached to a romantic image of wolves promoted by radical environmental and animal rights groups. Not so coincidentally, such an emotion attachment is financially rewarding to the groups promoting the false image of wolves.

One  complaint: when Wolves was written, the myth of the "harmless" wolf had yet to be broken. The book was published in 2002, three years before Kenton Carniegie was killed by healthy wild wolves in 2005, or Candice Berner in Alaska in 2010.

Now we know: healthy wolves often kill people under the right conditions. Those conditions do not exist where people commonly carry modern firearms, and are allowed to shoot wolves which become too bold.

©2022 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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