Sunday, June 5, 2016

Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat)

Never Cry Wolf
Farley Mowat
Back Bay Books
Nonfiction, Nature
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: In the middle of the 20th century, the Canadian wilderness faced a dire threat: wolves, numbering in the hundred thousands at least, murdering countless caribou and other valuable game animals. Even bounties failed to curb the vicious beasts from their bloodthirsty ways. To study the problem, young biologist Farley Mowat was sent into the wilderness... but what he found was a far cry from what he'd expected.

REVIEW: I wavered over how to categorize this book for a while. At the time this was published, it was among the first modern books speaking to the public on behalf of the long-maligned wolf, a creature that - like most every animal - humanity has loaded down with its own expectations, myths, and fears with little regard to facts. In pursuit of his points, Mowat evidently tweaked reality, though everything was ultimately based on his true-life observations, and the expedition it chronicles is a matter of record. The essence, though, is truthful, as is the overall theme of people condemning an entire species out of superstition, error, fear, and flat-out greed... a PR problem that continues to plague wolves and other animals as humanity places increasing pressure on our planet's last bastions of wilderness. In a political climate where the outcome was determined long before Mowat boarded a plane for the barrens, the unvarnished truth stood little chance of being heard. The result is an interesting, often amusing and at times surprising chronicle of a young man's struggle toward a truth that society at large had programmed him to resist: the primary problem facing game animals is not predation, but people. Along the way, he makes "friends" with a small wolf pack and a few locals. It's the interactions with the humans that show the most exaggeration - not surprising, as his original intent had been to write about the absurd bureaucracy and other headaches he encountered in his tenure as a government-employed biologist. Today, it reads a little dated (largely due to the somewhat comical embellishments), though it's thanks to writers like him that the notion of a less-than-savage wolf isn't so radical a notion anymore. The ending is particularly potent, and managed to lift the book back to a solid four stars.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London) - My Review
Animal Wise (Virginia Morell) - My Review
Guts (Gary Paulsen) - My Review

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