Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books




Although wolves are the direct ancestors of today’s pet dogs, they’ve been demonized for centuries. Few wolves remain in Europe; endangered populations exist in the American West. Conservationists and ranchers clash over protecting the wolf, with livestock owners fearing for their animals.

Wolves are social predators, working together as a pack to hunt and to care for their young. The reintroduction of the wolf into the Yellowstone ecosystem has proven that predators have a significant role to play. Without wolves in Yellowstone, the elk population swelled, overcropping the foliage and resulting in significant erosion problems. After the wolves returned, the elk population rebalanced to sustainable levels. Little damage to ranchers’ stock was reported.

The books in this section offer fascinating information about wolves, based on detailed field studies as well as personal interactions with wolf packs.

Recommended Books and DVDs on Wolves

Arctic WildArctic Wild: The Remarkable True Story of One Couple's Adventures Living Among Wolves
Lois Crisler

Lois Crisler's 1956 memoir vividly recalls her 18 months in Alaska’s Brooks Range and the wolves that would help her work earn a place among the classics of natural history. There to film the caribou migration, she and her husband adopted two orphaned wolf pups, a male and a female. Assuming their human companions to be part of the pack, the pups go about the business of growing quite naturally into adult wolves. The couple observed, filmed, and noted every nuance of the wolves' change from playful pups to fully grown wolves. Revealed is a highly developed social mammal rather than the bloodthirsty murderer of popular accounts. Arctic Wild's fame derives from its place as one of the first narratives to explore wolf habits in an accessible manner that is free of cant and politicization. 1996, The Lyons Press

In the Company of wolvesThe Company of Wolves
Peter Steinhart

This book examines the relationship between humans and wolves in the wolves' last refuges in the Arctic and in places where the two species live together again as wolves move into new areas, either through their own natural movements or through attempts at reintroduction. Steinhart balances the book (while letting the reader know of his deep fondness and respect for wolves) between the wolves' advocates and their opponents, speaking with wolf biologists, wildlife managers, trappers, ranchers, Native Americans, and others. 1996, Vintage

The Last Wild Wolves
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

Nature and Environmental Book Review

The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts of the Rain Forest
Ian McAllister

Award-winning writer and photographer McAllister draws from his intimate observations of more than 40 wolf packs along the rugged coastline of British Columbia over a 17 year period in this first-ever documentation of their fascinating, complex way of life. In a compelling narrative with more than 100 stunning photographs, McAllister captures these majestic animals fishing for salmon, stalking the seals, playing on the beach, and raising their families. 2007, University of California Press



Living with Wolves/ Wolves at our DoorLiving with Wolves/Wolves at our Door
Jamie Dutcher, Jim Dutcher

For centuries wolves have been characterized as bloodthirsty predators, interested only in preying upon helpless livestock. Determined to overcome this misconception filmmakers Jamie and Jim Dutcher spent six years in a tented camp in the wilderness of Idaho living with the Sawtooth Wolf Pack,  listening to them and earning their trust. Exclusive footage reveals the innermost details of life in the pack - its unique social structure, how wolf cubs are raised within the group, and how these powerful creatures interact with man. Wolves at our Door follows Jim and Jamie as they bottle-feed and raise a litter of young gray wolves and document these affectionate creatures' most intimate behaviors. The Dutchers gained unprecedented acceptance into the world of these great canines, and came to see that the wolves' reputation as savage beasts proves to be unfounded. 2007, Discovery Channel

The New WolvesThe New Wolves: The Return of the Mexican Wolf to the American Southwest
Rick Bass

In The New Wolves, author Rick Bass turns his naturalist’s eye to the Mexican wolves that once roamed freely throughout the Southwest, until they were hunted to extinction when cattle came to the region. As in his other nature writings, Bass observes the often conflicted interaction between species preservation and ecological recovery. Bass’s passionate and beautifully written account of the wolves’ return is one that few readers will ever forget. 2007, The Lyons Press

The Ninemile WolvesThe Ninemile Wolves
Rick Bass

In 1989 two wolves appeared in a valley in northwestern Montana - the first known pair to den outside Glacier National Park in 60 years. Nature writer Bass, a champion of wolf reintroduction, follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the young wolves caught in a bureaucratic and political crossfire. The book describes the history of wolf eradication programs in the United States and debunks many myths associated with this much-maligned animal. 2003, Mariner Books

The Return of the Wolf to YellowstoneThe Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone
Thomas McNamee

The recent reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone Park after an absence of 70 years is considered by many to be one of the true conservation highlights of this century. This richly detailed and colorful account of the restoration project covers all the bases: the history, the politics, the characters (both human and animal), and the events including the trapping in Canada, the problematic release, and the illegal shooting of Wolf Number Ten near the town of Red Lodge, Montana, and the subsequent manhunt. 1998, Owl Books

Wolf EmpireWolf Empire: An Intimate Portrait of a Species
Scott Ian Barry

This book of black and white photographs portrays wolves with great respect and shows their profound beauty. Photographer Barry has studied wolves for over 30 years and in these magnificent portraits we see the wolves' intelligence and beauty, their cunning, their playfulness, their killer instincts. These extraordinary photos expose the elusive world of fur and teeth, light and shadow, and wolf behavior seldom seen by the human eye. 2007, The Lyons Press

Wolf SongsWolf Songs: The Classic Collection of Writing about Wolves
Robert Busch

Wolves, once the bad guys of nature--viewed as vicious, bloodthirsty, and cunning--are now undergoing a reassessment as part of the whole environmental movement. This predator is no longer a creature to be poisoned, strafed from airplanes, brutally trapped, and otherwise eradicated. Championed at last, the big bad wolf is even the subject of the "Wolf Manifesto," which states, "The wolf has the right to exist in a wild state . . . in no way related to their known value to mankind." 1997, Sierra Club Books

WolvesWolves: A Legend Returns to Yellowstone (DVD)
David Douglas, director

This classic nature film invites you to run with the pack for a wolf's-eye view. Witness the unfolding saga of hardships and affection, losses and triumphs, and the controversy surrounding the decision to reintroduce wolves back into the heart of the West. 2007, National Geographic

Wolves at our DoorWolves at Our Door: The Extraordinary Story of the Couple Who Lived with Wolves
Jim Dutcher, Jamie Dutcher, and James Manfull

Intent on dispelling the misguided notion that wolves are dangerous, predatory creatures, the Dutchers went to great lengths to observe a wolf pack's natural, unguarded behavior: they created a 20-acre enclosure for the wolves in Idaho's remote Sawtooth Mountains and moved their own quarters inside of it. There, the couple spent six years living among and filming the wolf pack, and their resulting film won an Emmy Award . This written account of their film explains how the Dutchers set out to capture the intimate daily life and social structure of the wolf pack. They observed behavior of a complex nature, a complicated and rigid family orientation, unexpected playfulness, and unyielding social bonds and achieved their goal of revealing a more sensitive, gentle wolf. This reads like a novel about relationships, but the main characters are animals rather than humans. 2003, Touchstone

WolvesWolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation
L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani

Wolves are some of the world's most charismatic and controversial animals, capturing the imaginations of their friends and foes alike. Highly intelligent and adaptable, they hunt and play together in close-knit packs. In Wolves, many of the world's leading wolf experts provide state-of-the-art coverage of just about everything you could want to know about these fascinating creatures. Individual chapters cover wolf social ecology, behavior, communication, feeding habits and hunting techniques, population dynamics, physiology and pathology, molecular genetics, evolution and taxonomy, interactions with nonhuman animals such as bears and coyotes, reintroduction, interactions with humans, and conservation and recovery efforts. The book discusses both gray and red wolves in detail and includes information about wolves around the world, from the United States and Canada to Italy, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, and Mongolia. 2003, University of Chicago Press

The Wolves of Mount McKinleyThe Wolves of Mount McKinley
Adolph Murie

First published in 1944, this book is a careful record of observations made by an astute naturalist bent upon discovering how the animals live, what they eat, where they range, when they give birth, and, most importantly, how they maintain a healthy and natural population balance. Not a few myths about prey and predator are dispelled by Murie's objective observations, which include examining the contents of scats and stomachs. 1985, University of Washington Press

Wolves of MinongWolves of Minong: Isle Royale's Wild Community
Durward L. Allen

In Wolves of Minong noted wildlife biologist Allen describes the coexistence among wolves, moose, and other creatures on Isle Royal in Lake Superior. In a natural occurrence, wolves crossed frozen waters to the isle in 1949. The predators' self-introduction acted as a check on the burgeoning moose population, which had been slowly starving due to inadequate food sources to support their numbers. The wolves are complex, intelligent creatures that you come to admire even more as you read about their elaborate social rituals. 1994, University of Michigan Press

Of Wolves and Men
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

Of Wolves and Men
Barry Lopez

In this essential book about Canis lupus, first published in 1978, Barry Lopez writes, "The wolf exerts a powerful influence on the human imagination. It takes your stare and turns it back on you." Of Wolves and Men is a careful study of the way that wolves and humans have interacted over centuries, and the way that the wolf has become so central to our thinking about animals. Drawing on considerable personal experience with wolves and on an astonishing range of literature, Lopez argues for the necessity of wolves in the world, which would be much poorer without their howl. 1979, Scribner

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