Wolves have always been among my favorite animals. I loved reading The Call of the Wild by Jack London and other stories about these intelligent social animals whose lives parallel ours in so many ways. The decision to bring wolves back to the Yellowstone ecosystem thrilled me, and it wasn’t long before I decided young readers needed to learn the truth about these animals which had been so maligned in fairy tales. The result is When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone. Read more about the book itself in my Nonfiction Minute post, The Butterfly Effect.
This wasn’t my first wolf book–I’d already written Gray Wolf Red Wolf about the lives of America’s two wolf species. Research for that book was great fun. My photographer, Bill Muñoz, found a woman in the countryside not far from his home who was raising a litter of wolf pups. She wanted them to get used to people, since they would be spending their lives in captivity, so she welcomed our visits. Bill and I followed those pups as they grew, bottle feeding them, letting them chew our shoe laces, and watching how they related to one another.
Here I am, holding a lap full of wriggling wolf pups that just want to get down on the ground and explore. I would bend down to breathe in their sweet, wild aroma, and let them lick my face. Not very many people get this kind of treat. And when they grew up into strong, healthy young adults, I could walk into their acre-sized pen and kneel down, and they would surround me, sniffing at my familiar odor and deciding it was okay for me to stay and watch them as they romped and play-fought to develop their pack social standing.
In the wild, each wolf has its own role in the family. This captive pack didn’t need to hunt for survival, but they still needed to establish the social standing of each.
I’d also explored how the wolf’s domesticated cousin, the dog, retains so many of its ancestors traits, in Dogs: The Wolf Within. My only published fiction, Return of the Wolf, tells the story of Sedra, a lone female wolf rejected by her pack, who has adventures as she travels afar to find a safe home and then establishes her own pack after finding a mate.