Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Last Wolf by Jim Crumley

Wolves became extinct in Scotland around 1743. This book explores the legends about how they may have finally disappeared from our landscape and proposes that for the Highlands to return to their natural state wolves need to be re-introduced.

The tone is often polemical and sometimes sentimental. The real power though comes from the author's observations about how wolves changed the landscape and ecosystems for the better when they were re-introduced into Yellowstone.

For example, the elk herds (the wolves main prey species) in Yellowstone have become way of wolves and so no longer linger in the same place for so long, meaning that they no longer tend to eat the vegetation so much, creating a more diverse and attractive landscape covered in bush and scrub and allowing trees more chance to grow to maturity. For this reason, the author describes wolves as the painters of landscapes.

According to this book, there is ample room in the Highlands of Scotland for between one and three packs of wolves. They would keep down the number of red deer and help the ancient Caledonian forest to regenerate. There would almost certainly be strenuous opposition from farmers, game keepers and a fair proportion of the general public.

Oddly when I was walking by the Water of Leith earlier this week, I saw two separate large dogs, that from a distance looked like wolves, trotting along by the river. Wolves wouldn't be introduced to the Water of Leith, it's too urban an area, but the sight made me imagine the wolves rightfully back in the Scottish Highlands.

The Last Wolf by Jim Crumley published by Birlinn.


sage said...

Wolves are such a hot political topic in America--especially out West where ranchers hate them, but they are beautiful animals and when we begin to mess with the ecosystem, things get screwed up.

Bill said...

Restoring an animal to a place from which it has long been absent is also messing with the environment. There are few easy choices

Anonymous said...

Hi Juliet,
I once read a book about a woman who bought a wolf-dog hybrid and the nightmare it was to keep him even though she loved him.

But more on topic, I watch a show on TV sometimes called Alaska: The Last Frontier. In it, a man rides his land and watches cattle. He shot a wolf who was killing the cows. He said it tore him up to do it because he loves all animals. He did, however, use the fur. It was very interesting to see how he had to get the pack horse accustomed to carrying a wolf carcass on its back. It was terrified as it instinctively saw the wolf as a predator.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Nill, I certainly would prefer to see our red squirrels protected properly before we even think of introducing wolves.....

Pigeonhouse said...

Jim Crumley is such a miserable old git, though. He wrote a book about the Pentland Hills in the 1990s, long since out of print, thankfully, in which he railed against the creation of the Pentland Hills Regional Park, and reserved his strongest ire for a couple of mountain bikers who had the audacity to ride along one of the tracks. How dare anyone other than solitary, silent walkers enjoy the hills! And how dare there be a public body to protect and promote them!

Anonymous said...

wow, very interesting - brings to mind for me the situation in Australia with regards to our native wild dog the dingo - research clearly shows that the dingo is beneficial because it keeps down the feral animals etc.,

RG said...

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949

Crafty Green Poet said...

Sage - naturally a hot topic I think, but they are a natural part of the ecosysterm and as you say when we start to mess with that, things screw up.

Josephine - that sounds an interesting programme.

Pigeonhouse - I don't agree with a lot of what he says, and yes miserable old git is a reasonable description of how he sometimes comes across

gabrielle - very similar sitationa, i think

Rabbits Guy - funnily enough Crumley quotes from Sand County Almanac a fwe times in this book

Jenn Jilks said...

I didn't know this! Wow.