Sunday book review – On the Trail of Wolves by Philippa Forrester

Philippa Forrester, the UK broadcaster, spent over a year in the greater Yellowstone area with her film cameramen husband and their school-aged children. This book chronicles her encounters with wildlife and with Americans.

I’ve been to Yellowstone twice and seen Grey Wolves there both times (and Grizzlies and Black Bears and a bunch of other wildlife) and I have very fond memories of the place, its scenery, its geysers and its wildlife. But then, I wasn’t living there and the wildlife wasn’t eating my cattle.

This is a sensitive description of the place, the people and the issues and I very much enjoyed reading it. It is particularly rich in stories, conversations, from local residents about the wildlife around them, in their backyards and in their fields.

There are real conflicts here between nature and ranching and different people will come to different conclusions. I would be very sad if Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks lost their Grey Wolves again – and there is little chance that they will – but what do we do about a growing population of cattle-eating Grey Wolves spilling out of protected areas into ranchland? Anything? Nothing? What? This book doesn’t have the answers but it poses the dilemmas in a more human and less black-and-white way than many.

And it’s a good read; conversations with Americans that don’t quite work (despite a common, on the face of it) language, the school run with its bears and grouse and simply living in a remote place far from friends and family. It’s a thoroughly engaging narrative.

On the Trail of Wolves: A British adventure in the Wild West by Philippa Forrester is published by Bloomsbury (on 14 May – Thursday this week).

Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson – for reviews see here.
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2 Replies to “Sunday book review – On the Trail of Wolves by Philippa Forrester”

  1. Wolves killing cattle is good for headlines but I thought that the real conflict with local ranchers was the spread of brucellosis from the park's bison.

    Is this still the case and does the book touch on that?

    1. Stuart - there is rarely a single conflict and the focus of this book is, as the title suggests, on the wolves (it's good that a title isn't misleading - they so often are. So there remains the opportunity to write about Bison and brucellosis and then someone will say - I thought that wolves eating cattle was the problem here.

      Wolves killing cattle is certainly a headline - in the local news. Read the book.


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