The environmental community lost two great and prolific writers these past two weeks, Peter Matthiessen and Farley Mowat. While many of my contemporaries reflected on the influences that Mr Matthiessen had on them and their writings and conservationism–it was Mowat that had the most profound effect on me. It was back in 1982 when my former brother-in-law, a Vermont biologist, first introduced me to the works of the Canadian writer Mowat. Living in rural Northern New England, I was deeply enamored with the great north, the Arctic, and wolves. Matter of fact, I was obsessed with wolves. I waxed regularly about their someday return to the wilds of northern New England.
In 1983, the movie Never Cry Wolf was released based on Mowat’s 1963 book of same name.. That movie then and still today touches every emotional nerve in my body. The Mark Isham soundtrack certainly helped. In 1985 I headed to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior to spend 11 days backpacking this wilderness island in hopes of seeing wolves. Every evening I would sit in my tent reading my dog-eared copy of Never Cry Wolf, while listening to the haunting cries of loons-and hoping to hear the howl of the wolf. I was granted my wish a couple of times on that trip–and there is nothing as magical and primeval as hearing wolves howl for the first time. I will never forget that evening at Lake Desor on that isolated island in the Great North Woods.
Mowat’s seminal book, while perhaps not fully sound scientifically, is a remarkable read on wolves, their behavior, their role in the wild, and our perceptions of them. Never Cry Wolf did did more to turn the tide against wolf persecution in North America than any other work. It was a watershed novel for this much maligned and misunderstood creature. In 1985, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Today there are several packs in my state of Washington. And I believe it won’t be long before they return to the wilds of my beloved northern New England. I know that when I finally see a North American wolf-be it in Washington, Canada, or New England–I’ll reflect on Mowat and thank him for this opportunity and for introducing me to the mystique and awe of these beautiful animals.