Wolf Island: Discovering the Secrets of a Mythic Animal

Univ. of Minnesota. Oct. 2020. 184p. ISBN 9781517908256. $24.95. NAT HIST
This book recounts three seasons of field work on Isle Royale, MI, located in the northwest of Lake Superior, as told by Mech to science journalist Breining. As a Purdue graduate student with the task of studying wolves and their primary prey, moose, Mech went to the island in 1958. The area proved to be an “ideal outdoor laboratory,” and Mech’s project is still ongoing some 60 years later. Fans of wolfdom may be surprised to learn how little was known before Mech—working pre-GPS with boots on the ground (and in an airplane)—began. This is not a book for the squeamish. There’s plenty of blood, gore, and scat, as the researcher seeks clues to an apex predator’s hunting prowess and diet. Although the book’s focus is on the animals, it has a strong human interest too: readers feel the physical challenges of fieldwork, share a young scientist’s sense of discovery. And the story takes a surprising turn when Mech, on the verge of completing his thesis, has spiritual and professional doubts: “the world was going to pot and here I was counting wolves.”
VERDICT Recommended as an accessible, personable account of an esteemed scientist’s foundational work on wolves.
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