In the summer of 1948, young biologist and budding writer Farley Mowat, "infatuated with the study of animate nature," joined the Dominion Wildlife Service and, after enduring a few bureaucratic mishaps, was assigned to study a population of wolves in the subarctic highlands of southern Nunavut and northern Manitoba. Those wolves and their kin, Mowat's superiors believed, had decimated the once huge population of large mammals in the region, so that, as one worried official put it, "more and more of our fellow citizens are coming back from more and more hunts with less and less deer."
Mowat found his wolves, followed them, learned their ways, and in a very real sense became part of the pack. As he did so, suffering plenty of misadventures along the way (and performing odd experiments that involved, among other things, subsisting on a lupine diet of field mice, for which he includes a recipe or two), he concluded that human hunters, and not wolves, were the cause of the ungulates' decline. The news, he writes, was not well received in Ottawa and Winnipeg. "I received no reply," he writes, "unless the fact that the Provincial Government raised the bounty on wolves to twenty dollars some weeks afterwards could be considered a reply."
Never Cry Wolf was first published in 1963, a time when the welfare of Canis lupus was far from most readers' minds. Attitudes have changed, and Mowat's book now has many companions, books that pay honour to wolves and urge their protection. A close-up look at the lives of wolves in their native domain, it still stands at the head of that well-stocked library. --Gregory McNamee