Following her award-winning 2013 book about cougars, Paula Wild returns with an extraordinary look at another badly misunderstood animal. In Return of the Wolf: Conflict & Coexistence, the Courtenay, B.C., author delivers a riveting exploration of the complicated relationship between humans and wolves.
Wolf behaviour, Wild writes, is not only unpredictable but changing. “The old way of thinking was that wolves needed remote areas to live in but as populations rebound, it’s becoming apparent that, with enough prey and protection from humans, they can live anywhere.” As wolves continue to repopulate parks, farmland, and other human-use areas, it’s clear an informed public is key to avoiding conflict.
In vivid and exacting prose, Wild examines attacks by often healthy wolves on bicyclists, campers, pets, and livestock, and the possible reasons behind this aggressive behaviour. The stories Wild marshals to inform these interactions – rarely if ever reported in the news – are fascinating. Among the many wolf experts Wild interviews are a predation specialist, a wildlife safety consultant, and various researchers, educators, and wildlife advocates. Matters of habituation and food conditioning are explored in depth.
Surveying history and myth in the old and new worlds, Wild’s text is as much about human behaviour and ethics as it is a close examination of the lives and habits of wolves. As Wild reveals through discussion of lethal wolf culls and non-lethal means of deterring wolves, wildlife management is inherently political. Wild presents examples of current education initiatives aimed at fostering a more peaceful and safer coexistence between humans and wolves. The “Wolf Safety Checklist” in the appendix offers an opportunity to reflect on our own behaviour and be proactive in the way we interact in our shared habitat.
Without moralizing, Wild reaches for and finds a hopeful middle ground in an often polarized discussion. “One thing is certain,” she writes, “just as wolves have affected human actions, attitudes, and cultures for centuries, human perceptions will continue to shape the destiny of the wolf.” Replete with unforgettable imagery and brilliantly rendered from beginning to end, this astonishing book goes a long way to inform, update, and reshape our perceptions of wolves and awaken us to our role in determining their fate.