I haven’t but it must be something to remember. What’s your opinion about wolves being transported to a national park and let run free? Regardless of whether you were all for it or totally against it when I walked into the library last week and caught sight of "The Yellowstone Wolves, the first year" by Gary Ferguson I knew it was a must read and I wasn’t disappointed. Regardless of how you feel about the reintroduction of wolves back into Yellowstone National Park, this is a beautifully written look at the project that took 30 years to get underway.

Gary Ferguson is the author. He was an interpretive naturalist for the U.S. Forest Service before he became a free-lance writer. He has written more than 15 books about nature and science and how the two impact each other. He has won numerous awards for his work including several for his "Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone." Seeing the book in the library served as a reminder to me that for much too long I have had another of Ferguson’s books titled "Recovery From Coronary Bypass Surgery" that was loaned to me by John Stewart.

Ferguson was married to Decatur County’s Jane Stewart until her tragic death earlier this year. Jane, daughter of Gilman and Virginia Stewart, was an outdoor educator. She and Gary graduated from Indiana University. Jim and Susan Stewart and family gave "The Yellowstone Wolves" to the Greensburg library in memory of Jane.

Although I had been aware that the project was in progress I had no idea that it took 30 years and plenty of work on the part of many people for it to become a reality. As Ferguson explains in the book, it took those years between the initial meeting of members of Yellowstone’s staff, Assistant Secretary of the Interior and a lot of biologists to the day wolves were once more free to roam the Yellowstone and northern Idaho. And that doesn’t include the work it took on the part of many to get the wolves to the park where they would finally be left free. You can imagine the amount of paperwork, permits, contracts, letters of agreement between Canada and the United States.

The wolves had to be free of rabies, tuberculosis, and other diseases and even the methods of capturing the animals had to be agreed upon. Then came agreements for the method of penning up the wolves at first and finally how to protect them until they left their pens and entered the park.

In this book Ferguson wrote of the wolves’ individual personality. He also wrote of the people who were dedicated to the project of reintroducing the wolves to the site and, he wrote of those who were opposed to the project. Although he has the talent to write without interjecting his own opinions, you do know at the end of the book that he was excited about this event in our country from an ecological standpoint.

Ferguson has a way with words. Yes, he is a writer but he is the kind of writer that many authors can only aspire to. His description of spring in the park is memorable. When telling about the relationship between the wolves and the humans he wrote, "…in truth the wolves reacted to their presence with about as much enthusiasm as the rest of us might muster for a pot luck with serial killers." Even so, he tells of one commentator who tells his listeners that the "wolves have become welfare wards, good-for-nothings, too fond of government handouts to ever want to go back and make an honest living in the wild." So, ever so gently Ferguson does make the point that there are critics who feel at ease trying to convince the public of his own point of view when he has never bothered to look at another viewpoint.

Ferguson tells the story of the wolves from the time they have been left free to roam the park through the first pups to be born. The workers rejoiced when the first litter of eight was born although the mother, named number 9, appeared to have tried in vain to delay the birth until the father was present. A man convinced he was doing mankind a favor had shot the number 10, the father.

I enjoyed the book for the writing as much as the subject. Ferguson has an unpretentious but simply marvelous way of putting words together.


Daily News Columnist Pat Smith can be reached via e-mail at: pat.smith@cnhimedia.com.

*The email address listed after my column and also on the Internet has been wrong for some time. Now that it is corrected I hope you will try again if you have tried to email me and failed.

Recommended for you