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71 of 77 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.
30 of 36 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.
18 of 21 found the following review helpful:
Deadpan, clinical, hilariousJul 20, 2005
By Laural H. Bourque
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!
16 of 19 found the following review helpful:
Three Stars for Entertainment, Zero for veracitySep 16, 2006
By William Reich
I can't believe all the reviewers gushing about this book. It is propaganda, propaganda for a good cause. But, like all propaganda, it is not bound by truth or even by facts.
Mowat has never tried to refute the claims, well-documented claims, that he never did the research and never spent the time with the wolves that he describes in this book. He is telling people what he thinks they need to hear so as to protect the wolves. Well, I would like to see wolves protected also. But real wolves, not the wolf-clowns that he invented for this book.
Real wolf researchers, see Mech among others, were never convinced that Mowat was saying anything real about wolves. They liked the impact the book had on the public consciousness but they knew nonsense when they saw it.
Real-world wolves were not the cause of the caribou population decline, as the Canadian government seems to have believed. But they do hunt caribou. They tend to hunt the largest prey available. Not to the exclusion of other prey but that seems to be their preference. In Wood Buffalo National Park up in Canada, they hunt bison. Where moose are available, they don't hunt elk as much. When any of the big ungulates are available, they tend to leave whitetail deer or mule deer alone, except fot the occasional kill of opportunity. Somewhere, sometime, a wolf killed and ate mice. But they don't make a habit of it.
Ths sad thing is that this book was written for a wonderful reason and helped wean people from one false picture of wolves. However, it spread a different false picture of wolves and needs to be shown for what it is. Of course, the book is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone who wanted a neat fictional book to kill some time.
13 of 15 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.
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