About the politics of wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies-

Jim Yuskavitch begins his book with the story of wolf B45, the first Idaho wolf to venture into Oregon. She (B45) was a first generation offspring of the wolves brought down from British Columbia for release in Idaho in 1996. Most of his examples and descriptions early on in the book center on Idaho. Most past books begin with Yellowstone National Park.

As an Idahoan, I enjoyed reading for the first time about the “exploits” of a number of the wolves reintroduced to Idaho. Their stories are as interesting as the many about the individual Yellowstone wolves and wolf pack. I had hoped someone would do this.

Before you are through reading In Wolf Country, he has discussed almost every issue surrounding wolf restoration to the Northern Rockies. Most of these have been topics in The Wildlife News. Our readers will find the book to be a fine companion giving the factual history, the various controversies about the wolves, the players, the politics, and the world view of the ranching and hunting interests that largely dominate the management of the outdoors east of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada and west of the Missouri River.

The author shows in detail how wolf management is just barely about wolf biology. Instead it deals with people and politics, many of which are guided by beliefs about wolves that include few facts, many errors, and a lot of emotion. I have wondered for years why wolves raise so much hostile emotion in some groups of people. One answer he finds is that the controversy for many on the anti-wolf side is a stand-in for different worldview. Wolf supporters, according to the ideology found in many writings and opinion pieces, value animals over humans. They would push God off his throne ruling over all, but giving  to “man” dominion above all else. Support for predators presumably means hostility to property rights and guns, belief in a overpowerful federal government. Wolves are pretty much a plot to destroy the rural West.

Of course, he is careful to point out that there are ranchers and hunters who do not subscribe to idea that wolves-put-on-ground represents some cosmic battle between good and evil. Many just go along with what they see as the dominant opinion where they live or work. In the rural towns social pressure makes it hard to differ on this subject and often costly for those of their number who have a less emotional view to speak up. An example he uses is the Wallowa County, Oregon unsuccessful attempt by the Barking Mad Farm Bed and Breakfast to get a conditional use permit to expand onto property zoned for agriculture. The application was made into a much larger issue and something to be stopped because the kind of tourism the expansion might generate, it was argued, would bring the wrong kind of people as visitors to the county and give support for wolves. It would threaten priority of ranching there. If I recall correctly, that this dominance of ranching was explicitly stated by opponents of the permit.

He also retells Don Peay’s successful effort in Utah to extract large sums of money from the Utah Legislature to lobby to prevent the federal government from introducing wolves to Utah, something no one was asking the government to do. Peay, who founded Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, was also successful getting a Utah ballot proposition passed making it so that it would take a supermajority (2/3) in future for any other ballot proposition to directly change the rules and take of hunters and fishers.

To date, not many books have written about the work in Idaho by the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribal Wolf Recovery Team) which was tasked with managing the reintroduced wolves when the Idaho Legislature rejected doing so, though they claimed that role later. A major task, and one that continues to a lesser degree, was to estimate the number of wolves and wolf packs in Idaho each year and collect information on their whereabouts and habits for the Department of Interior to asses the degree to which the recovery effort had succeeded.

Yuskavitch was able to go on a number of trips to the woods with the Team. His observations were interesting, both of finding the wolf packs, and finding the people who actually feared them in remote and small, Elk City, Idaho. I can testify to the correctness of his observations because at the time I had an in-law who lived there. Observing the fear his girlfriend had of the unseen menace, and how hard it was to abate it, shocked me. She had seen what she thought were wolf tracks on her property. I told her I found something far worse she needed to pay attention to — spotted knapweed just getting started.

This author, like many others, debunks the common idea that wolves are especially dangerous to people. No, it is not the case that they are fixin’ to eat us, but want to eat all the other animals first. He relates his conversation with Utah State University Professor Dan McNulty pointing out that wolves are quite weak for large carnivores; far from being killing machines. Compared to the cougar, for example, they are less muscular, have a weaker bite, have weak legs when it comes to attacking. Their legs are “just sticks,” and they cannot rotate them at the knee. Their claws do not grab or hold.

He has two chapters that are pretty much about hunting; wolf hunting and hunting deer and elk. There is a chapter on the return of wolves to the Pacific Northwest with stories about “Journey,” wolf OR7 and other important Oregon wolves.

He concludes that “Wolves are Here to Stay,” and that hunting wolves actually facilitates their dispersal to places far from their birth.

I have only touched on the many topics of the book which is available in paperback for order on-line. It was released just before the New Year. It is hardly a dull academic tome despite its many facts and analysis of the policy controversy. For the person greatly interested in wolves on the ground in the West, the book should be of intense interest.


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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

43 Responses to “In Wolf Country,” important new book by Jim Yuskavitch

  1. Jeanne Zimmerman says:

    I cannot believe that I didn’t know about this site before. I have been following the reintroduction of wolves for decades. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful resource.

  2. Ida Lupines says:

    I found something far worse she needed to pay attention to — spotted knapweed just getting started.

    🙂 I’ll look forward to reading this.

  3. Immer Treue says:

    Let’s see, what do I read next? “In Wolf Country” or
    “Wolf: What’s to Misunderstand?” Na, my glass is half full, I choose to understand.

  4. Jeff Martin says:

    Great story, Amazon has the book in stock, and I just ordered a copy.

  5. Yvette says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this one. I thought about ordering it tonight but I think I’ll wait to see if one of the big book stores has it in stock.

    Immer, I read the sample that Amazon had for the book you mentioned. He jumped into the God thing in the section about the author. For a second, I considered purchasing the 4.99 Kindle version even though I thought it would be hard to stomach. Then he used ‘it’s’ when he should have used ‘its’, on top of ending sentences with prepositions…..all while proclaiming to be telling us the ‘truth about wolves’. The downside of taking the cheap route with a Kindle version is I can’t burn it, and if I throw it across the room I break my tablet.

    It’s (yes, it’s!) the Yuskavitch book for me.

    • Immer Treue says:

      Careful Yvette, you’ll probably make the headlines, or at least the bylines. 🙂

  6. Ken Watts says:

    “The Real Wolf” is also a great read!

    • Immer Treue says:

      ?. Perhaps an easy read, but one would be out on a long thin limb by referring to it as a “good” read.

  7. Wapitime says:

    I probably will purchase and read the book. Hoping it will provide more insight, that will help me hunt and kill them once hunting them is allowed in Oregon. In fact I think I will order the book today. Thanks Mr. Maughan for the information. In all actuality, at my age I will probably never get the opportunity to hunt wolves. I have seen them each of the last two years in North Eastern Oregon while hunting elk.

    • Gary Humbard says:

      Wapitime, have a little class and make your comments regarding wanting to kill wolves on a anti-wolf site. This site aspires to restore wolves to as much of their historical habitat as humanly possible.

  8. Barb Rupers says:

    I came across this article which is a bit off topic but thought it contained information relating to the issue. Interesting comments on the article by Bruce Babbitt.

  9. Ralph Maughan says:

    Jim Yuskavitch, who wrote this new book, has a blog a lot of folks will find interesting. It is Sneakcat: Oregon Wildlife News and Views


    • Jake Jenson says:

      Thanks Ralph, I’ll pick up a copy of this book you’re recommending and I see Jim has one or two on Oregon outlaws of the past apparently. I want those as well.

  10. rork says:

    “Utah ballot proposition passed” (Proposition 5 1998).
    I researched that a little and don’t get how any state constitution allows (“fantasizes” seems more fitting) laws to pass that can’t be outmaneuvered by laws passed an equivalent way at a later date. Simple example: if it is was an amendment to the state constitution I’d understand how it makes sense that it can’t be gotten around with ordinary laws and would instead require new action at the level of the state constitution. It nearly seemed like inserting language like “and this law can never be altered by future laws” into a bill (the point being, you can write that, but it isn’t true, presuming a constitution that makes any sense).

    • Ralph Maughan says:


      It seems to me that this ballot proposition from 1998 might be unconstitutional.

  11. Scott MacButch says:

    I got the book on order. Another great read is: Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal. He studied wolves in Alaska for over 40 years; tragically he was killed in an airplane crash in 2009 while tracking wolves in Denali NP.

    Wolves of the Yukon by Bob Hayes is another great one that had been out of print, but now Amazon has the paperback.

    • Immer Treue says:

      I agree, Hayes Wolves of the Yukon is an insightful book. With Haber’s book on the bookcase and Yuskavitch’s on order, plus Jim Harrison’s latest on the way, among others, I’m ready for Winter.

  12. Mareks Vilkins says:

    thanks Immer, for mentioning Jim Harrison – seems a nice chap with style. reading interviews with him now

  13. Ida Lupine says:

    I’ve not read Jim Harrison, but his work sounds wonderful. I’ll start with the intriguing-sounding Wolf: A False Memoir. Love the title!

    • Immer Treue says:

      Jim Harrison, closely followed by Tom McGuane are my favorite writers of fiction. Harrison creates pictures with his words; you are there, though I have a bit more difficulty with his poetry. Both have been around a while.

      Harrison can be rather ribald at times. Perhaps he is most famous for Legends of the Fall, a 90 some page novella. On of the few times I actually think the movie was better than the written words. My first adventure with Harrison was the novella Sundog. It is still my favorite which I will reread every couple of years.

      He does a decent job of writing from the perspective of a woman. His story Dalva, followed later by the sprawling The Road Home are probably the best examples.

      His Brown Dog character, featured in a number of novellas, is now encompassed in one book, simpl titled Brown Dog.

      Wolf, I believe, is his first novel.

      Some folks have trouble getting into Harrison, but those that do are all the more rewarded for the literary journey they will take.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        Thank you Immer –

        On of the few times I actually think the movie was better than the written words.

        It’s interesting that you would say that, because I also feel that although I love movie adaptations, the books themselves are more satisfying for detail and being more thought provoking, etc. I always try to read the book before seeing a film (not always successful) because it makes the experience more enriching. For some unknown reason I never did see Legends of the Fall, I don’t know why.

        I love books about people’s experiences with nature and the outdoors. I’ll look forward to reading.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          And I don’t mind ribald, I get tired of a steady diet of PC-ness and of men being emasculated by it, and the modern view of men and women having all the difference of stick figures on a unisex bathroom. To me it can show an earthiness and love of life and women that is appealing and not always sexist.

  14. Nancy says:

    Ordered this book over two weeks ago from Amazon, have yet to see it. Anyone else had a delivery problem? Wonder if they under estimated the interest?

    • Immer Treue says:

      Haven’t made the order yet, but Amazon is still advertising next day delivery…

    • Mareks Vilkins says:

      look at your Amazon account to see if they actually have sent it out yet (and when) – if yes, then it’s post office’s responsibility

    • Yvette says:

      Mine arrived yesterday and I placed the order on the 12th. I ordered from this seller, BooKnackrh.

    • Barb Rupers says:

      Mine arrived within a few days of ordering it. It is a lot more interesting reading, to me, than Beyond Wolves by Nie.

      • Barb Rupers says:

        I ordered from Amazon.

      • Immer Treue says:

        Does it deal with Pittmann Robertson funds at all?

        • Barb Rupers says:

          Neither of the books mentions Pittman-Robertson funds. Perhaps it is just a beer topic.
          A lot of pro-wildlife groups donated to the cause after the new Congress cut funds for the reintroduction the second year in 1996.

        • Barb Rupers says:

          Chapter 8 deals with the anti movement’s growth and mentions Jim Beers and Idaho’s wildlife funds which he speaks to in his 2011 piece “Why They Love Predators”.

    • Professor Sweat says:

      Mine took an extra week to arrive, compared to the other books I ordered during the purchase.

  15. Yvette says:

    I ordered via Amazon.

  16. Nancy says:

    Thanks everyone who weighed in here. Had a notice in my PO box today that a package had arrived (to large for the box) didn’t get by before the window closed so since I’m not expecting any other deliveries, to large for my box, will assume the book has finally made it here 🙂

    A little bit of history while waiting for the package:



    Will say again, its all relative 🙂

    • Nancy says:

      The package that arrived included a couple of books I’d given to a friend to read, over a year ago. Wolfer and Decade of the Wolf.

      So, still waiting 🙂

  17. Nancy says:

    “For the person greatly interested in wolves on the ground in the West, the book should be of intense interest”

    Agree Ralph.

    Got the book Monday and finished reading it last night, hard to put down even though a lot of the book’s content has been hashed and re-hashed on The Wildlife News over the years.


  18. Immer Treue says:

    In Wolf Country, by Jim Yuskavitch


    • Professor Sweat says:

      A good review and thanks for the reminders. I’m visiting some of my girlfriend’s more right-leaning relatives’ farm up in Sandpoint, ID this week. I should re-read this in case the topic comes up during any libation-induced debate. I completely forgot about the early 1900’s fires and the following ungulate rise.


January 2015


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey