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American Wolf  By  cover art

American Wolf

By: Nate Blakeslee
Narrated by: Mark Bramhall,Nate Blakeslee
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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times best-seller.

The enthralling true story of the rise and reign of O-Six, the celebrated Yellowstone wolf, and the people who loved or feared her. 

Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West. 

With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly renowned naturalist Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world. 

But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ears of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park's stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley. 

These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multigenerational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the ongoing cultural clash in the West - between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country's most iconic landscapes. 

©2017 Nate Blakeslee (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

 

  • A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
  • Shortlisted for the 2018 J. Anthony Lukas Prize
  • An Outside Magazine Best Book of 2017
  • A Science Friday Best Science Book of 2017 

“Blakeslee draws O-Six in novelistic... detail, using the conflicting insight and perspective of biologists, politicians, ranchers, environmentalists, lawyers, other animals, and hunters.... Seeing a wolf is exceptionally rare, and this book is as close as most readers will come.” (The New Yorker)

“A matriarch overthrown in what seems fairly described as a 'putsch,' marauding gangs running attacks into neighboring territory, an hours-long standoff with a grizzly, a discarded water bottle - a rarity in the wilderness of a national park - tossed around and protected like a prized new toy. The lives of the wolves in Yellowstone are often dramatic, but are full of touching, tender moments too, as Nate Blakeslee vividly writes in American Wolf.” (Los Angeles Times

"The story of one wolf’s struggle to survive in the majestic Yellowstone National Park offers an ambitious look through the eyes of an endangered animal." (New York Times Book Review

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  • Overall
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An Epic American Story

I never thought a nonfiction book would have me on the edge of tears, but I was totally sideswiped by American Wolf. It has it all: a charismatic (read: badass) female protagonist, fierce action scenes, gripping courtroom drama, a coming of age tale, and last minute political upheavals all served up with sturdy, hard-hitting narration.

You might have seen the viral video about the amazing impact wolf reintroduction has had on the wider ecosystem in Yellowstone, but there is much more to the story. The wolf’s saga touches on nearly every issue in our increasingly complex American narrative—from politics, to economics, to our personal, familial, and social lives. The further you get into this modern-day epic, the more deeply you realize that our story and the wolf’s are one and the same.

I also really appreciated how, especially in our time of increased polarization, Blakeslee did a good job of illustrating both sides of the issue. When it would have been really easy to make this adult version of FernGully, it is really a multi-faceted issue that deserves robust discussion.

90 people found this helpful

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Fascinating read

A well written and fascinating read follows individual wolves and various packs from the time of re-introduction to Yellowstone National Park to the present time. Intimate insight into the complex social structure of the wolf pack and individual pack members' personalities. Never a dull moment as the book covers not only the wolves but the advocates, researchers, ranchers, hunters, politics and legal arguments surrounding the growing wolf population.

38 people found this helpful

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Unforgettable story

American Wolf is a terrific book that will stay with me forever. The later chapters with their infuriating politics, harrowing exploits, and heartbreaking outcomes left me sobbing. Blakeslee's novel is much larger than a story of Yellowstone wolves. I cried over this book because it's such an evocative elegy for wildness and reminds us why preserving wilderness is so critical. Listening to this novel in the current political climate makes it even more timely and poignant.

22 people found this helpful

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Stunning Story Well Told

Nate Blakeslee has unfolded the tale of the return of wolves to the lower 48 states. It's a story for the curious, the wildlife biologist, the pragmatist, the visionary, the animal lover. It's also a love story.

Blakeslee develops the scene from the broad cloth of history's destruction of the wolf population in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He shows the "bad" reputation wolves have and the bad politics that haunts wolves. Then, he turns to the human characters who bring wolves back to Yellowstone. These are real people doing an incredibly difficult (nearly impossible) job in the front yard of wolf-haters. It's through these wildlife biologists and myriad volunteer observers that we learn about the magnificence of wolves and why their presence is welcome and actually helpful.

Finally, Blakeslee introduces the reader to wolves, animals with character and personality. The Alpha females and Alpha males of various packs that develop in Yellowstone. Soon, 21 and 42 are friends of the listener, too. Eventually we meet O-6, a female who can take down a 600 pound elk by herself (it usually takes a pack of 3, 4 or more to accomplish this). We watch her court brothers 754 and 755 and her unlikely choice of the smaller of the two.

So too, we meet those flinty characters of Wyoming in their pickup trucks with gun racks who want nothing more than to shoot a wolf. They and their political friends have personalities and reasons for their positions.

The story is compelling and masterfully written. Not over written. Not sentimental although there is a lot to be sentimental about. Moreover, the narrator does a superb job of conveying the words into images that sustain and engage the listener. A terrific book!

16 people found this helpful

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Lessons to learned

A wonderful story. Not just a story of Wolves but of the lives they touch. The watchers, ranchers and hunters. Lessons all around. Listen with an open mind and no matter what side you set on you will come away with a greater knowledge of the issue. Wildlife Management is complicated like most things in life. We as humans seem to believe we know more than Mother Nature isn’t that laughable. For me my lesson was having grown up on a Ranch is it really hunting when one kills a Wolf who has spent its entire life on display for the tens of thousands of visitors to Yellowstone? I find that hard to justify. One day the wolf sees a group with scopes watching them live there lives with no worries then the next day that scope has a rifle attached. Different kind of scopes but same idea. I went int listening with not much of an opinion, knowing the outcome and was truly crying. And that’s not an easy thing. For me i think now the story turns to the Grizzlies of Greater Yellowstone and a bit of self reflection. With out hesitation I can say that this book changed my view and there must be a buffer zone to protect those animals who have no reason to fear you and me. Great book and it will be shared with a fellow rancher and a wolf loving friend.

13 people found this helpful

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One of the Most Consequential Books I Have Read

I cannot do justice to this book. It is without a doubt the most moving and valuable work I read in 2017, and I enjoyed many excellent books last year. American Wolf deals with the reintroduction of wolves into the northern Rockies, beginning with packs brought to Yellowstone National Park. The author describes the sad history of wolves in America as European populations spread across the continent. Wolves were hunted, poisoned, trapped, and murdered as puppies in their dens until only a few remnants of the species were left in wilderness areas of northern Minnesota and Michigan. In the mid-1990s, efforts were made to return wolves to remote areas of the West, and the controversy over their fate began anew.

I am not objective. I admit that. I love wolves, and have loved them for as long as I can remember. I don’t think of them as “pets;” they are significantly different from dogs, although they are considered to be the same species by most biologists. Wolves are wild, and they should be left to live that life. Dogs are my companion animals; wolves are something else entirely.

Nate Blakeslee masterfully presents a balanced view of the various sides to the wolf issue, explaining how the presence of wolves impacts the lives of ranchers, hunters, outfitters, and others who recently find themselves sharing the land with these wild hunters. As apex predators, wolves compete with us for game and space. Elk hunters can no longer walk 50 feet from the road to shoot their trophies or provide themselves with “free” meat for much of the year. With the return of wolves to the landscape, elk numbers have returned to the balance which had existed for thousands of years before humans exterminated wolves from the ecosystem.

But with the return of wolves, that ecosystem has come back into a healthier equilibrium, one that benefits many other creatures, including the elk themselves. The book clearly details this process while personalizing the wolf itself through comprehensive descriptions of the lives of many individuals being studied by wildlife biologists and Yellowstone park rangers; the wolf packs are also watched and admired by thousands of park visitors who have the thrilling and inspiring opportunity to glimpse a wilderness mostly gone, and nearly lost forever.

The narrative centers around a special wolf, O-Six, and Rick McIntyre, the ranger who studies her and the other wolves of the park with obsessive dedication. The descriptions of wolves in this book are not sentimental or anthropomorphic; they originate from the field notes of Rick and others devoted to documenting the daily lives of these amazing creatures. Life for wolves can be brutal, and the author pulls no punches in relating the reality of hunts as well as the deadly inter-pack warfare .

This book is inspiring, yet also profoundly sad. But it educated me, and it deeply moved me. I listened to the audiobook, and when it finished, I immediately began to listen again…to all of it. (Something I don’t remember ever doing before.) And it was even more inspiring and more sad the second time.

I have not done justice to the book itself, to O-Six, or to Rick McIntyre in writing this review. I can only say that, for me, it was one of the most consequential books I have experienced. I believe that we need wildness, as we need air to breathe, food to eat, and water to drink. If we lose that in this great, vast land of ours, we lose a vital piece of our souls as well. I may never see a wolf in the wild, but knowing they are out there, roaming the mountains, gives me great hope and joy.

12 people found this helpful

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The Riveting, Captivating, Timely, Heartbreaking Story of Us

One of my favorite books this year, not just because of its grand depth, where O-Six and her family were brought alive before my eyes, and where the people who care help others know and care so much, but for its tale of two cities in a fragile eco system, cohabiting with each other while political games and increased rhetoric first put one and then the other above each other. I suppose it's possible that we Americans shall go on living with each other, come what may, never noticing all they who depend on our equilibrium, who need a good example of melting-pot cohabitation; I suppose it, but I no longer take it for granted. Yes, this book told me a beautiful story of wolf life in Yellowstone, made me think of the whole picture of the Yellowstone community, but it also made me think of America, and indeed the world, on a grand scale. Thank you, Nate Blakeslee, for doing such a damned fine job and bringing this story to me and the world. Also, thank you for helping me know that I've put off my long desire to visit the park, far far too long.

11 people found this helpful

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Sad, brutal,beautiful book

This book made me mad, cringe, cry and laugh. Never expected that a book about wolves and a ranger spending his whole life watching and recording them would become a book I'd never forget. Beautiful!!

8 people found this helpful

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Truly spectacular

Such an incredible story and a true pleasure to listen to. One of my favorites on audible thus far, if not THE favorite. For such a polarized issue, it is impressive that it can stand out as such a captivating story to so many.

7 people found this helpful

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Gripping! A grand tale of survival and family.

This was an excellent story of not just the survival of a species, but the survival of individual animals with distinct personalities. You may even find yourself caring about a topic you never knew existed.

6 people found this helpful