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84 of 90 found the following review helpful:
"Wolves, please don't cry."Sep 17, 2006
"Everything I need is right here"
NEVER CRY WOLF is Farley Mowat's first-person reminiscence of his time spent studying wolves in the Canadian arctic. NEVER CRY WOLF, first published in 1963, was one of the earliest, most widely-read, and most effective conservation narratives ever penned. It's Russian edition (the title of which, literally translated back into English, is WOLVES, PLEASE DON'T CRY) was responsible for a Soviet ban on wolf hunting that spared the animals in their natural habitat and gained Mr. Mowat a notorious reputation at the U.S. State Department, which banned his subsequent entry into the United States.
NEVER CRY WOLF has been attacked as being more fable than fact, and this may be true. Mowat has often said that he prefers not to let facts get in the way of the truth, and there is no question that he wanted his readers to come to love these generally benighted creatures. If one doubts the low esteem in which wolves are held one only needs to consider representative northern European fairy tales: Peter and the Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, and others present the wolf as a four-legged homicidal maniac. Unfortunately, this agelong prejudice has nearly exterminated the wolf in most of its range, courtesy of a certain two-legged homicidal maniac. Like our primordial fear of the dark, and the very common terror of cats, lukophobia derives from the lost years of the cave.
Mowat tells a good story. As a young Game Warden he is sent to remote northermost Canada to evaluate the effect of wolf depredations on the caribou herds. What he finds is that the wolves eat only sick, aged, or weak caribou, thus contributing to natural selection (while human beings are actively destroying whole herds of caribou). He finds that the usual wolf diet is skinks, voles and mice (he claims to have tried mouse as a meal and includes a recipe for Souris a la Creme in the book). He finds that the wolves are a natural part of the ecosystem, and that a pack of wolves together is far less destructive than even a single human being with a rifle.
Mowat tells us of observing a wolf family at close range, the members of which he names "George", "Angeline," and "Uncle Albert." Together with a litter of pups, these three become the center of Mowat's tale. He credits them with all sorts of anthropomorphisms including dramatic abilities to communicate amongst themselves and with other wolves, and gives each a strikingly distinct personality. He respects George and he likes the clownish Uncle Albert, but he is simply head-over-heels in love with Angeline, over whom he waxes almost as rhapsodic as if she were a human female.
Lupinologists dismiss most of Mowat's observations as purely imaginative. Whether Mowat tosses away his credibility or makes his point more powerfully by ascribing so many fine human virtues to these creatures (they are nothing short of poster-wolves for 'family values') is dependent upon the reader and his or her mindset toward the natural world.
For this reviewer, who is tired of the slow, careless and sometimes intentional destruction of our natural environment, and who is convinced that our Earth is striking back against the imbalances we've created by generating warming seas, melting icecaps, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and all sorts of other phenomena, it does not seem at all a bad idea for us to humanize the wolf if by so humanizing him we will be more inclined to save him. And the same goes for the rest of the planet.
34 of 40 found the following review helpful:
Comedian As Scientist Entertains As He InformsSep 28, 2006
I picked this book up recently for the first time since high-school, some 15-plus (!) years ago. Maybe it was Steve Irwin's death, or a viewing of the documentary Grizzly Man, that got me to thinking about it- either way, I'm glad I did. I'd forgotten what a wacky character Farley Mowat was, and how much more there is to this quick read than dry scientific reporting.
Mowat's communing with the wolves (circa 1950) was partially borne of pure, scientific curiosity; in his own words, he "took the word biology- which means the study of life- at its face value," and sought to immerse himself outdoors and away from an aseptic laboratory. The other thing engendering his research was the vagary of the Canadian government, which set him to studying wolves in Ottawa with a throw of the dice (not to mention next to no itinerary, instructions, or training).
Mowat dispelled major myths of wolf as bloodthirsty, marauding monsters, and showed them to be gentle, caring, and family-oriented (in fact, mostly monogamous) creatures. He never felt threatened by his lupine companions, despite keeping quarters very close to- and at one point, entering- the den. He witnessed "George, Angeline, and Uncle Albert" engage in compassionate acts like nurturing and training young pups and serving as hosts for traveling packs of non-native wolves. The chapter at the narrative's end ("To Kill A Wolf") describing the indiscriminate and government-promoted wolf hunting practices is made sadder by the way the wolves have by then won the reader's heart.
What made this nature tale really shine, however, was Mowat's plucky attitude and unconventional scientific methodology. He alternately horrified Eskimo locals and won them over with alcohol. He pretty much ignored what little government protocol he had to follow until nearly the end of his trip, cramming in his duties like a high-schooler churning out a last-minute term paper. He learned to sleep via a nightly succession of 5-10 minute "wolf-naps" (and told of later ticking off a female companion understandably unused to the practice). And the- ahem- frosting on the cake was his approach to scientifically determine whether or not large mammals could sustain themselves on a diet of mice alone, after discovering over time that rodents constituted the majority of the wolves' diet: he ate nothing but the same, for months on end. God bless unorthodox scientific discoveries, and the lovable nut jobs that make them.
20 of 23 found the following review helpful:
Deadpan, clinical, hilariousJul 20, 2005
Farley Mowat is what every scientist should be; dry, sarcastic, clinical, hilarious, and not afraid to eat mice. The biologist who spent two years in the Arctic wild won me over with his warm descriptions of the wolf family he watches (George, Angelina, and Uncle Albert). Brilliantly funny and informative!
15 of 17 found the following review helpful:
Good addition to the conservationist's repertoire.Oct 04, 1999
Though Mowat's experience with wolves occurred over 30 years ago, it managed to captivate my interest and provide me additional insight to a species I am very concerned about. As a short novel, I wasn't sure whether Mowat intended his narrative to be that of a scientific account or a "coming to terms" with the human/wolf spiritual experience. Either way, it was in parts both vastly entertaining as well as intellectually well-grounded and thoughtful. Anyone concerned about the constant perpetuation of negative myths about wolves in our or any culture should read as much as possible about wolves in order to begin to understand where society has wronged such an intelligent, special animal. Mowat's book is an excellent source of information for the conservationist seeking a view into the lives of an artic wolf family, as well as for the reader who may have no idea how unfairly ostracized this species has been--30 years ago or not, the concepts of human encroachment, unfounded hatred and unjustified blame are alive today, as is human's preoccupation with pest control in the name of profits.
39 of 49 found the following review helpful:
Entertaining, but NOT a true story and NOT real scienceJul 08, 2011
By J. Scarff
My problem with Farley Mowat's (non-autobiographical) books is that they play extremely loose with the facts and the persons described, and in some cases just lie. In the case of Never Cry Wolf, Mowat plagiarizes substantially. Mowat's misinformation undercuts the credibility of real scientists at a time scientists are routinely disregarded by our policy makers, reinforces the public misconception that researchers find only what they want to find, and misleads people badly about the true nature of wolves and our environmental issues.
The basic plot of Never Cry Wolf is of Mowat as a young field biologist during summers in Canada who had to fight incompetent, unsympathetic bureaucratic supervisors whose only interest was in finding excuses to kill wolves. Mowat claims he discovered that the wolves ate mainly mice, not endangering the caribou, deer or other large prey species, but that the bureaucracy fought to suppress these findings.
In fact, Mowat's field experience was nothing like what he describes in Never Cry Wolf, and far less extensive or valuable. Mowat has never published any scientific reports supporting his claims. The head of his scientific field project was Doug Pimlott, one of the top wolf scientists in North America, and a man with enormous integrity, sympathy for, and understanding of wolves. The actual facts of Mowat's very limited field experience have been described in several scientific journals. Folks interested in the true story should search out the reviews of Never Cry Wolf published by Pimlott in the Journal of Wildlife Management 30:236-37 (1966) and Banfield, A.W.F. in the Can. Field Naturalist 78:52-52 (1964).
Even more troubling is Mowat's apparent plagiarism. In Never Cry Wolf, Mowat describes at considerable length play among various members of a wolf pack he observed. Except he did not observe this. This section seems to be lifted pretty intact from Adolph Murie's classic field study of wolves in Alaska - The Wolves of Mount McKinley (U.S. Natl Park Service, Fauna Ser No. 5, 1944).
As to Mowat's claim that the wolves in his study ate mainly mice, this is ridiculous. The wolves in the area he allegedly studied live primarily off large prey such as deer, caribou and moose, with beaver probably being the smallest prey eaten routinely. The wolf's diet is discussed authoritatively in the recent monograph Wolves, Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (ed. L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani, Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003). The chapter on diet (p.104) begins:
"From the best-selling book and popular movie, Never Cry Wolf?millions of people gained the impression that wolves eat mice, rarely caribou. Author Farley Mowat later admitted fabricating much of the story (Goddard 1996), originally billed as true, to gain public sympathy for the wolf. Mowat succeeded enormously, and decades later the misconception remains." (Goddard = A Real Whopper, Saturday Night III:(4), 46-50, 52, 54, 64.)
What saddens me is that there are so many other, better books about wolves. A superb book that explores brilliantly human's complex interaction scientifically, culturally, and historical with wolves and is exceptionally well written, I recommend Barry Lopez's Of Wolves and Men. Lopez, an extraordinarily eloquent writer, approaches his subject with both a sophisticated grasp of the science of wolves as well as a sensitive, accurate and very insightful understanding of other cultural ways of understanding wolves, their environment and their interaction with humans.
Any books by L. David Mech or John Theberge would be a much better use of one's time reading about wolves.
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