The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America's Other Wolf

The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America's Other Wolf

The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America's Other Wolf

The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America's Other Wolf

Synopsis

Red wolves are shy, elusive, and misunderstood predators. Until the 1800s, they were common in the longleaf pine savannas and deciduous forests of the southeastern United States. However, habitat degradation, persecution, and interbreeding with the coyote nearly annihilated them. Today, reintroduced red wolves are found only in peninsular northeastern North Carolina within less than 1 percent of their former range. In The Secret World of Red Wolves, nature writer T. DeLene Beeland shadows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's pioneering recovery program over the course of a year to craft an intimate portrait of the red wolf, its history, and its restoration. Her engaging exploration of this top-level predator traces the intense effort of conservation personnel to save a species that has slipped to the verge of extinction.
Beeland weaves together the voices of scientists, conservationists, and local landowners while posing larger questions about human coexistence with red wolves, our understanding of what defines this animal as a distinct species, and how climate change may swamp its current habitat.

Excerpt

Compared to other wolves, the red wolf is on the smallish side. But don’t let its size fool you. This creature has a vast and complex story, the depth and breadth of which continue to surprise and fascinate me. Until now, the details of its story have not been recorded in one volume for general audiences. Bits of its history exist in academic papers and book chapters, various children’s books, and works that focused on the initial efforts to reintroduce the species to a small part of its historic range. But the book you hold in your hands is the first to fold all the elements of the red wolf’s extraordinary story into a single narrative for nonexperts. It traces this unique animal from its hypothesized origins to its modern management and even glimpses into its future. This is a story of science, nature, history, and the human aspects of conservation projects. But more than anything, it is the story of real people who were inspired, and who continue to be inspired, to think differently and to innovate new biological field methods because of the red wolf’s dire plight. It is a story both of the red wolf’s natural history and of the people working to recover it.

This is also the story of how I came to understand what red wolves are today and what they may have been historically. My initial interest in red wolves was sparked shortly after I graduated from the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Florida, where I studied interdisciplinary ecology. While working on my thesis—an investigation of stakeholder beliefs and values regarding the controversial Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program that is taking place in the American Southwest—I became aware of the amazing ecological role that wolves play in our environment. As I learned more about wolves, I became intrigued by their position at the crux of science, economics, politics, culture, naturalresources management, and public perception. During my thesis research, I continually bumped into miscellaneous papers about red wolves and began saving them to read later. When later finally came, I was instantly electrified by red wolves’ mysterious past and by the fact that, while we know a great deal about these animals, there are still so many important questions yet to be answered.

When I searched for further information, I was sorely disappointed to learn that there were no current, comprehensive, general-audience books . . .

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