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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Sea Wolves, written by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read with photographs by Ian McAllister. Orca Book Publishers, 2010, $19.95 ages 11 and up

"Wolves are usually born in dens hidden in the rainforest, but when the cubs are old enough to travel short distances, the pack will often move to what's called a rendezvous site. These sites are usually close to the ocean, where wolf pups can forage for food when the tide goes out."

Well, it happened again! I knew what to expect this time; so, I was prepared for another great read. I found it difficult to put the book away...not my usual reaction to nonfiction, as you can just browse and return as you wish. Not me, I started and  I just kept reading until the final 'wolf bite'. Wow!

This second wonderful book considers the coastal wolves who share the rainforest with the salmon bears of their first book. Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read begin with a bit of information about the historical journey of the wolf...often badly treated and certainly misunderstood by many. Then, they takes us into the world that the wolf packs inhabit, sharing their remarkable lives as they fish, swim, and hunt.

Their story follows the seasons, giving readers a clear picture of their ways and offering much information that is new to me. Their survival depends on a combination of things and is threatened by some of the same issues that threaten their most unusual and beautiful habitat. Logging and oil are the most dominant. The authors have a great fascination with these wolves, and they share the same respect for them as the First Nations people of British Columbia do. They show us that the social nature of the wolf is similar to our own, and allow us to see these impressive animals as they live in family groups, take a designated role, enjoy play and teach their young the ways of their rainforest world. 

Efforts are afoot to protect them and there is much information included in the last chapter about these. If people can understand that each element in an ecosystem has a pivotal role to play in the survival of that habitat, they may survive. It will take concentrated work by many to make sure that happens.

I really appreciate the personal storytelling style that the authors use to share their research and their concern for these little-known creatures. It makes for a relaxed read, and a most enjoyable one. The Wolf Bites are created in the form of pertinent questions that a young scientist might ask:

"Do other animals prey on wolves?
Adult wolves don't have natural predators, but cougars, eagles, and grizzly bears may kill and eat wolf pups if they get the chance. Humans don't eat wolves, but we do hunt and kill them for sport or their fur. Coastal wolves are not protected from hunting and trapping in BC, so they are killed all the time."

The photographs are exceptional and give us an amazing personal look at their many activities throughout the year. Few of us would ever have the chance to see what Ian McAllister sees through his camera lens. The captions are informative and very accessible to their target audience of middle years readers. One of my favorite photos shows a wolf carefully observing a salmon as it flips up out of the water. The accompanying caption reads:

"Because of their fondness for salmon, coastal wolves are sometimes known as fishing wolves. This wet wolf going after a salmon on a bright fall morning illustrates why. A pack of wolves can catch more than two hundred salmon in a single evening of fishing."

If the salmon population is depleted by overfishing, what happens to the coastal wolves? And what about everything that then depends on the wolves? The more educated we become about the dangers that face so many of the world's animals and the more we know about the animals themselves, the less likely we are to be the hunter...unless we follow in Ian McAllister's footsteps and do it with our cameras.

After reading this book and discovering how intelligent these beautiful creatures are, you may even change your long held notion that all wolves are 'big', 'bad' and unworthy of our respect and protection.

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