Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book Review: Never Cry Wolf

Book Review: Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

It's hard not to love this book. It's set in 1948 where the author - a young hotshot biologist (and writer) joined the Dominion Wildlife Service and after enduring a several bureaucratic mishaps, was assigned to study a population of wolves in the subarctic highlands of southern Canada. Those wolves and their kin, the government biologists believed, had decimated the once huge population of large mammals in the region, so that, as one worried official put it, "more and more of our fellow citizens are coming back from more and more hunts with less and less deer." Mowat located the wolves, followed them, learned their ways, and in a way became part of the pack.

Along the way he had many adventures and not a few strange experiments such as himself eating only field mice (which he kindly includes a recipe for) after he noticed that's what the wolves did for a season. After some observation of the humans and wolves in the area he concluded that human hunters, and not wolves, were the real cause of the caribou's decline. His conclusion, he writes, was not well received in Ottawa and Winnipeg. "I received no reply," he writes, "unless the fact that the Provincial Government raised the bounty on wolves to twenty dollars some weeks afterwards could be considered a reply."

What can you say about this Canadian classic that hasn't already been said? Never Cry Wolf is the book that Mowat started out writing to make fun of government bureaucracy and instead it became a book that made fun of himself - and dryly came to the defense of what was then a much maligned animal. The popularity of Never Cry Wolf with it's pro-predator message painted such a different side of wolves then was portrayed by elsewhere that he single handedly changed the course of lupine policy in the north. This worthy book is short, humorous, fun, and has a conscience (without being at all preachy). It is truly a piece of Canadiana that you simply must read. I give it 4.5 ninja stars out of 5.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But it has been proven that Mowat is a charlatan, trying to make people believe that this book is true when it is really fiction. See the Canadian literary magazine "Saturday Night", which features Mowat on its cover with a Pinocchio nose for being a liar. Also 2 reviews in International Wolf magazine and articles and books by Mech.