Wolf Mountains: A History of Wolves along the Great Divide

Article excerpt

Karen R. Jones, Wolf Mountains: A History of Wolves along the Great Divide (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2002), 336pp. Cloth. $49.95. ISBN 1- 5523-8072-6.

The interactions between physical environment, humans and wildlife have formed major themes in the history of North America. Why 'environmental history' in the sense of 'the history of human interaction with the environment' and 'the history of environmentalism' should be so much more developed in North America than in Europe is perhaps a debate best reserved for another time. Suffice it to say here that this study by Karen Jones, a history of human interference with natural wolf packs in the Rocky Mountains of both the us and Canada, maintains the quality and status of previous landmark studies in North American historical ecology. The four major chapters of the book deal with wolves in Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff and Jasper National Parks. They are framed by three smaller chapters; an Introduction deals with 'National Parks and the Wolf ', a Conclusion covers 'Trials and Trails of Wolf History' and an Epilogue is entitled 'Legal Wrangles, Canine Appetites and Shifting Cultural Attitudes'. One hesitates to lump the case-study areas into the one 'Great Divide' of the book's title, because in fact, as is well illustrated here, there are significant differences among the four national parks when put under the microscope. If one lesson has been learned from ecology and ecological history over the years, it is that each specific region (or spatial ecosystem) has a character of its own in terms of ecosystem structure and human history. While general trends might be discernible, the 'devil is in the detail'. The message of ecology to 'developers' is that different regional ecosystems are indeed different, and will react differently to human impacts. This is well illustrated in this excellent comparative study of the fates of Canis lupus in the four parks. The detail presented here highlights the contrasts, although there has been a general historical progression from Aboriginal tolerance/indifference, to the depredations of white hunters, and then to the vicious culls carried out by early parks officers. …