Recommended Reads: Books describe return of wolves to Yellowstone

A white wolf at Yellowstone. (Photo by Wendy Kendall)
A white wolf at Yellowstone. (Photo by Wendy Kendall)

Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone, by Douglas W. Smith and Gary Ferguson
When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone, by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and photos by Dan Hartman and Cassie Hartman

“Amazingly, a study conducted in 2005 estimated that some two hundred thousand people were seeing wolves in Yellowstone every year, making it hands-down the best place on Earth to observe these animals in the wild. . . . For those who’ve been peering through the spotting scopes, an unforgettable aspect of such encounters is the wolf’s eyes, which can seem to look right through you.”

These books tell the story of the reintroduction of wolves into the wilds of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone. This park was a part of Ulysses S. Grant’s legacy and was meant to be enjoyed by all people. Since that time we’ve learned to dedicate it to the natural ecosystem for the plants and wildlife. Fear, loathing and ignorance about wolves meant that they became extinct from the park by the 1930s. It took 60 years for wolves to be returned to Yellowstone.

Returning wild to YellowstoneReturning the Wild to Yellowstone was written by an award-winning writer in partnership with the leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project. It’s a fascinating study into the harmful impacts to an ecosystem when a piece of it is completely removed. Chapters are dedicated to the planning and initial release of the wolves, and overviews of how they settled into the park and what the project members observed. It’s so interesting to read the behaviors of the wolf packs, and the resulting behaviors of the other animals. Mixed in are heartwarming “Portrait of a Wolf” chapters. Each of these focus on a different wolf, describing the life and personality of specific wolves that the project team got to know so well. You’re also treated to some wonderful photography by the project team.

At the end of the first decade of the wolves’ return, there were six successful packs in the park, even though, the book notes, “In truth absolutely no one thought this reintroduction would go so well.” Reading this book will give you an appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the project team, as well as a great respect for the tenacity and perseverance of this beautiful animal, the wolf.

when the wolves returnedWhen the Wolves Returned is a short overview of the wolves’ return to Yellowstone. This is a great book to share with children as well. It clearly shows how “the balance of nature is always chanting. But when all the pieces of the puzzle are present, the extremes are eliminated. Today Yellowstone is working its way back to a changing but healthy system, thanks to the wolves’ return.”

The story is told through captions to beautiful, artistic photography by Dan Hartman and Cassie Hartman. They are a very talented father-daughter photography team who live on the northeast border of the park. Dan’s work has been published by National Geographic and many other places. You can see some of his work at

Thereby hangs a tale…

Wendy Kendall
Wendy Kendall

— By Wendy Kendall

Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.

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