Book Review: Return of the Wolf – Paula Wild

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

It’s the tail end of a field season and I’m exhausted, but I’ve managed to read and enjoy a topical book just before I head back to Kelowna.

Plot: This book follows the evolving relationship between humans and wolves.

Review: I’m so glad this book was recommended to me. It provided me with further context for my PhD, including examples from the area I am working in right now. The book shared a detailed history of wolves throughout North America and Eurasia, as well as examples of conflict and coexistence throughout. My biggest criticism of the book is in relation to section about a lone wolf that lived on an island off the coast of Victoria, BC. I think you’ll see why:

When she walked around the island, she kept her distance from the wolf as she didn’t want him to become habituated to people. Habituation means an animal has lost its natural caution around humans, no longer fears them and is willing to come close, as it doesn’t associate their presence with a negative experience. It’s a process that occurs over time.

All good so far, we’ve learnt what it means for an animal to become habituated and lose its fear of people. And in the very next sentence they overlook that:

“Even so, it seems that we’ve developed a relationship,” she says. “He lifts his nose and sniffs the air when I arrive, I’m sure he recognises and trusts me.”

Adding habituation to the list of reasons that wolves come into conflict with people is only going to make matters worse. Thankfully, Wild does discuss the "scare, don't stare" tactic, and shares some wolf safety tips (aimed to keep people and wolves safe):

  • Never feed wolves of wildlife that may attract them (e.g. deer).

  • Manage attractants such as pets, pet food and livestock, as well as human food and garbage.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and wolf activity in the area.

  • Supervise young children when outside. Teach them what to do if they see a wolf.

  • Keep your dog leashed or leave it at home if visiting wolf country.

  • Carry an air horn, pepper spray and a fixed blade knife (or firearm if you’re licensed and they’re not restricted in the area). Check the expiry date on pepper spray, know its range and learn how to use it.

  • Keep pets and livestock in secure enclosures at night.

  • Enjoy the outdoors in groups of two or more. If a wolf approaches, act together to scare it off immediately.

  • Keep a clean campsite. Store food, toiletries and garbage in a food safe, cache or bear hang. Cook and store food away from sleeping areas and pack all garbage out. Do not leave any items out when away from camp. Dispose of dirty dishwater away from camp.

Buy/Borrow: I borrowed my copy from one of the field technicians that I work with, but I’ll be buying my own second-hand copy for my office.

Wolf tracks on the beach.

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Photo Disclaimer: All photographs are property of Sophie May Watts or James Fleming unless otherwise stated.

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