Review: 'American Wolf' explores clash over the gray wolf

This cover image released by Crown shows "American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West," by Nate Blakeslee. (Crown via AP)

Book Review: Author Nate Blakeslee tells a masterful and elegant tale in "American Wolf." The book explores the clash over the gray wolf with a story told through the life of Yellowstone wolf O-Six and the humans who loved her.

"American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West" (Crown), by Nate Blakeslee

As the reigning queen of Yellowstone National Park, O-Six roamed the picturesque Lamar Valley for years, escaping predators and scientists alike.

O-Six was a regular celebrity, so to speak, drawing crowds of wolf-watchers from all over the world. Her presence on Facebook and in the news helped give an identity to the wolves living in the national park since 1995 when a formal reintroduction effort started.

Indeed, O-Six was the "most famous wolf in the world," as stated in a New York Times article. In 2012, the beloved animal was killed by an unapologetic hunter, who kept the alpha female's pelt hanging on a wall in his home, a wolf tag receipt pinned above it so there were no questions about the legality of the kill.

The new book "American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West" explores the clash over Canis lupus, the gray wolf, with a story told through the life of O-Six and the humans who loved her. Author Nate Blakeslee, a writer for the magazine Texas Monthly, tells a masterful and elegant tale. Nature enthusiasts or lovers of narrative-nonfiction will enjoy the book.

For hundreds of years, wolves have been the source of political strife in the West.

Environmentalists push for the animal's protection while cattle ranchers and hunters argue otherwise. Throughout our country's history, the wolf has been culled, hunted, poisoned and trapped.

"When the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, there were perhaps as many as two million wolves on the continent," Blakeslee writes. "Most of the early colonial governments, eager to make their settlements safe for livestock, paid bounties for wolf hides; they forced some Native tribes to pay regular tribute in dead wolves."

Today they are on and off the federal endangered species list. O-Six was shot during a period when wolves were not protected. Despite her death, the wolf's legacy lives on bringing awareness to the plight of the species.

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