October 17–23, 2021 is National Wolf Awareness Week in the U.S.- seven days dedicated to understanding wolves and their place in the ecosystem. Because wolves have been absent from the landscape for so many years (they were extirpated in the early 1900s) there are a lot of misconceptions about them. We put together this recommended reading list to help people of all ages learn about the species. Some of these books are fairly academic and specific to wolf biology while others focus on life lessons learned while studying or just co-existing with wolves. And, because there is interest in wolves from all ages, a few are story or picture books for younger learners. You can find most, if not all, of these choices at your local library or favorite bookseller.
Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation edited by L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani
In this book, Mech works with wolf experts from around the world to discuss everything from wolf social ecology, behavior, communication, feeding habits and hunting techniques to population dynamics, molecular genetics, interactions with other animals and humans, and conservation and recovery efforts. It includes information about wolves around the world, from the United States and Canada to Italy, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, and Mongolia.
Wolf Island: Discovering the Secrets of a Mythic Animal by L. David Mech and Greg Breining
This second book by Mech and co-writer Breining is a recommendation by staff at the Wolf Haven International sanctuary in Western Washington. It explores a decades-long study of wolf behavior that started when wolves crossed an iced over section of Lake Superior to Isle Royale in the 1940s. They have been there ever since, creating a long-term “laboratory” in which to study predator and prey interactions in an isolated setting, and the wolf’s role in the ecosystem.
Wolves on the Hunt: The Behavior of Wolves Hunting Wild Prey by L. David Mech, Douglas W. Smith and Daniel R. Macnulty
To quote Mech, Smith, and Macnulty in this book: “The interactions between apex predators and their prey are some of the most awesome and meaningful in nature—displays of strength, endurance, and a deep coevolutionary history. And there is perhaps no apex predator more impressive and important in its hunting—or more infamous, more misjudged—than the wolf.” This book focuses on wolves hunting wild prey, combining behavioral data, field observations, research, and also video segments of wolves hunting.
Yellowstone Wolves: Science and Discovery in the World’s First National Park edited by Douglas W. Smith, Daniel R. Stahler, and Daniel R. MacNulty
This book follows the return of wolves to Yellowstone in 1995 when the U.S. government reintroduced 41 wild wolves from Canada and northwest Montana. It includes in-depth information on individual wolves, population dynamics, wolf-prey relationships, genetics, disease, management and policy, and the ecosystem effects wolves have had on Yellowstone’s landscape.
Wolf Wars by Hank Fisher
This book also examines the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone. Fisher focuses on the eco-political battle of returning wolf populations and the decade-long political struggle with Congress, the courts, and the livestock industry to return wolves to their original habitat.
Alpha Wolves of Yellowstone Book Series by Rick McIntyre
Our final reading recommendation on Yellowstone wolves is for this three-book series that takes an in-depth look into the lives and personalities of individual wolves within the park. As a naturalist for the National Park Service, McIntyre recorded over 100,000 sightings of wolves in the wild and written more than 7 million words on his observations, making him one of the world’s foremost experts on wild wolf behavior. These books are true stories of Yellowstone’s wolves, including The Rise of Wolf 8 who started out smaller than other pups but grew to be an alpha male at a young age, and The Reign of Wolf 21, who’s story reads something like the wolf version of a Harlequin romance novel. The Redemption of Wolf 302 is the story of a young slacker who makes good and becomes a pack leader in his older years.
The Wolf in North American History by Stanley Paul Young
This book was compiled from Young’s papers as he documented his life as a wildlife biologist in the early 1900s and performed predatory animal control work to protect livestock. Although this book includes some outdated information on wolves, it is interesting from a historical context because it looks at wolves prior to their extirpation from many areas of the United States.
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
Multiple people involved with wolf management at WDFW agreed that this book should be required reading for all people, whether interested in wolves or not. Aldo Leopold is known as the “father” of wildlife management. Although this book doesn’t focus on wolves but on humans’ “moral responsibility” for the natural world, there is an essay in the book, Thinking Like a Mountain, in which Leopold recounts killing a wolf and how it changed his perspective about balance between predator, prey, and ecosystems.
Among Wolves by Gordon Haber and Marybeth Holleman
Another Wolf Haven staff recommendation. As a park ranger, Gordon Haber devoted years to studying the wolves of Denali National Park and advocating for balance in wolf management. His writings and photographs, compiled following his death in a plane crash, document the amazing degree to which wolves work as a family unit when doing almost everything, including hunting, playing, and raising pups.
Lobos: A Wolf Family Returns to the Wild by Brenda Peterson and Annie Musselman
This non-fiction children’s book, illustrated with color photographs, tells the story of a Mexican gray wolf with pups born at a sanctuary in Western Washington. It follows the family through their release into the wild in Mexico. This book has an age-appropriate conservation message and recognizes the controversy of reintroducing an endangered species.
Wolves of the Yukon by Bob Hayes
Bob Hayes researched wolves in the Yukon for 20 years. Using a combination of narratives and easy-to-follow essays, his book looks at the history of the Yukon wolf from the end of the Ice Age to today. He also explores wolf relations to moose, caribou, mountain sheep, grizzly bears and humans. While this book focuses on Yukon wolves, it gives insight into wolves everywhere.
Wolf Pups Join the Pack by Neil Duncan
Developed in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History, this children’s book captures a year in the life of a litter of wolf pups, illustrated with beautiful nature photography.
The Wolves are Back by Jean Craighead George
This picture book tells the story of wolf extirpation and the species’ gradual recovery in the west while promoting awareness of the delicate balance of nature and the ecosystem.