...captivating ... From that first gripping chapter, Blakeslee carries readers into the politically fraught world of wolves in Yellowstone, where, since reintroduction in 1995, generations of elk-feasting tribes have thrived, creating a roadside wildlife diorama unlike anything in the world. Blakeslee’s riveting account is an East of Eden with wolves. Immigrants from afar arrive in a new land, where they fight and flourish, seeding generations of kin that roam valley and range. Tribal factions emerge, bloody battles rage and heroes shine ... Blakeslee expertly weaves dense political maneuvering and scientific revelations with operatic glimpses of O-Six and her brood.
Blakeslee recounts the pack’s rise in gripping detail, from its inauspicious formation in 2010 to its eventual takeover of the prey-rich Lamar Valley, where O-Six’s grandmother once reigned, and its fierce battles with rival packs ... Blakeslee is a gifted storyteller, but the rich particulars of American Wolf were drawn from thousands of pages of observations documented firsthand by the crew of dedicated wolf watchers who have been flocking to Yellowstone National Park since the controversial reintroduction of Canis lupus in 1995 ... That you can’t stop reading despite the looming tragedy is a testament to the genius of Blakeslee’s tautly constructed narrative.
Blakeslee does a fine job presenting the wolf’s basic biological requirements, from abundant prey source (in Yellowstone, the overpopulation of elk) to secure denning sites. But he also illustrates the far more complicated and ever-dynamic human elements affecting the wolves. The politics of ranchers — some for wolves, others against — and antigovernment zealots, hunting outfitters, Congress, courts and judges, and tourism operators all exert a sculpting pressure on where and how and if the wolf can live ... American Wolf takes its place in a long lineage of wolf books. And there are cherished, striking images here: a winter-killed bison bull, stalled out in snow so deep it couldn’t even fall over, but died standing up and was frozen in place, while the ravens and wolves circled, investigating. Many readers might find the shifting cast of characters hard to follow — wolves named Shy Male, 21, 42, 754, 755, 776, Middle Gray, and so on. This is not the author’s fault, but rather testament instead to the ever-flowing life force that is the wolf, to which so many are attracted, while others, repulsed.