Carter Niemeyer, with his wife Jenny, has written his second book on his career restoring wolves to the Northern Rocky Mountains. The book is Wolf Land, in paperback and download. It is fourteen unnumbered chapters of his memoirs of wolves and wolf incidents. It is full of action and kept my attention. I read it in two sittings. Every chapter was intrinsically interesting and more so because for eleven years I blogged “Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Reports.” I had written about several of these incidents myself, so it was fascinating to read the account from someone who was actually there and usually the leading human participant. The various events described took place in Idaho, Wyoming (including Yellowstone N.P.), Montana, and Oregon.

The book also tells us of Niemeyer’s self-transformation. These stories are not told in a linear fashion, but through his eyes as he works with wolves and the people who love them, those who hate them, and the biologists who study them. He was trained in a traditional way for his career. He saw wildlife as game, non-game and predator, and he was very good using his traps and guns. He was different from most in that he observed and learned not only new techniques, but new ideas including those that made him rethink as original assumptions about wildlife.

His career progressed from being an excellent trapper and predator control agent for the federal government’s Animal Damage Control agency (now renamed Wildlife Services), to becoming its first wolf control expert. Next he became a wolf manager for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). He retired after a very successful stint as the federal head of wolf management in Idaho for the federal government (with the USFWS). During his tenure at the top of the wolf restoration program the Idaho wolf population increased, and amazingly, the number of both wolves killed by the government and the number of livestock lost to wolves declined. I think Idaho would have a better (certainly a happier wolf program) today if he was still at its helm. After his official retirement, he continued to work with wolves and increasingly to advocate for their secure restoration, and for a kind of wolf management that relies much less on lethal control than at the present. Over his career he became disenchanted with the shoot first attitude and uncritical acceptance of the desires of ranchers by his old employer ADC/Wildlife Services. His chapters give many glimpses of these things along with detailed stories of the animal he quickly came to admire.

A few of these events have been described before by others, especially “Beginnings: The Rose Creek Wolves.” It tells the story of the wolf trapping in Alberta for first release in the Northern Rockies wolf restoration program. The tale of Yellowstone wolf 9, her soon-to-be-poached mate no. 10, and her seven pups has been told at greater length, but the story of trapping/darting the wolves in Canada is all Carter. Without his expertise and likeable personality, the wolves would not have been effectively secured for reintroduction. This is true especially due to the time constraints and all the intrigue by parties bent on keeping wolves from being returned to their native range in Idaho and Wyoming.

Most of these stories have been told before only by Carter. “Number 27” was a favorite to me. Originally I had learned about this bold, light colored wolf immediately after her 1996 capture in northern British Columbia. She actually tried to attack the trapper’s helicopter there in the deep wilds near Pink Mountain. Niemeyer tells of his later attempts to retrap or dart her. It turned out that she always jumped at the helicopter if she could. She was a wolf that did things her own way. Wolf 27 was clever avoiding wolf managers from finding her or her pups. Once finally recaptured, Yellowstone Park’s Nez Perce wolf enclosure was not for her. She escaped and taught other wolves how to do it too. Eventually she led a large number out of the Park northwestward toward Dillon, Montana. Niemeyer was then ordered to shoot her, which he reluctantly did. Her escape this time had been foiled by an old fence in front of what would have been escape cover.

The Crystal Creek Pack was one of the three 1995 packs released in Yellowstone. Niemeyer tells the story how they were almost wiped out by their new rivals, the Druid Peak pack. They were reduced to just the alpha female and a sub adult male. They left Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley to settle in the remote Pelican Valley. Both grew very large feasting on elk and bison. They were the origins of Yellowstone’s big, bruising Mollies pack. Niemeyer tells of excitement and perils of chasing and darting them. The male wolf (number six) turned out to be the heaviest wolf measured weighed so far.

There are two stories about dogs that killed livestock. One was of cattle killing being two dogs when a wolf had been suspected. The more amazing one was where a male sheep dog paired off with a female wolf for romance and mutton.

The stories are not just in Yellowstone and Wyoming. They are also of the less known part of the restoration program in Idaho and even about the beginning of the wolves’ eventual colonization of Oregon.

This book is probably interesting whether it is the first book a person has read about wolves or whether they are old hands at observing, reading, or just have intellectual curiosity about wolves.

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

3 Responses to Carter Niemeyer writes a new wolf book

  1. avatar Amre says:

    Sounds awesome! I’ve been reading your old wolf reports Ralph, and it really is fascinating to look at the early days of the wolf program in Idaho and Yellowstone.

    Wonder if there’s anything about wolf #29 in there, who was apparently quite the escape artist…

  2. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    It does sound really good. Looking forward to reading – I also appreciate all the ‘lupinalities’ of the individual wolves you mention, and reading about how Mr. Niemeyer’s attitudes changed along the way. Great post!

  3. I bought the book. It’s an easy read. One thing in its favor is that Carter Niemeyer is no “bunny hugger.”

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