The Ninemile Wolves by Rick Bass

Ninemile WolvesGoodreads: The Ninemile Wolves

Summary: Bass tells the compelling story of the first wolf pack to re-settle in Montana outside of protected government land.  While Bass approaches the wolves with a mixture of awe, compassion, and fascination, others in the area are less welcoming, including some local ranchers and hunters.  It is up to Bass, his friend Rick Jimenez, and others who see beauty in the fierceness of wolves to protect the animals, teach them to survive, and convince others of their value.

ReviewThe Ninemile Wolves is an incredibly engaging and readable book, even for those who are not particularly zealous environmentalists or animal lovers.  Bass, though a scientist who knows he is not supposed to betray too much excitement while looking for facts and solutions, allows his passion for wolves to shine through his writing, and it is contagious.  Wolf-researcher Mike Jimenez, whom Bass befriends in Montana, is scarcely less in love with the wolves and plays the role of proud guardian and father as he tries to teach the pups, parentless, to live on their own.  Readers will be hard-pressed to finish the book less enthralled by this animal.

The book is, in truth, a number of interconnecting stories, that come together to make the story of the Ninemile Wolves.  It is Bass’s story, Jimenez’s, the Montanan ranchers’, the hunters’, the government’s—and they merge to determine the future of the once-mighty wolf.  Although Bass is never condescending, insulting, or rude, there are clear good guys and clear bad guys in this book.  Some of the bad ones are more ignorant than evil; Bass takes the government to task more than once, for example, for making wolves a matter of politics rather than science.  They send the wolves to “neutral” land, so voters will not be upset, completely uncaring that the wolves cannot survive in the environment to which they wish to confine them.  After witnessing the resulting disaster, they will make the suggestion a second time for a second group of wolves.

Bass also includes a lot of history in his book, offering readers the story of wolves on this continent from the beginning, when they were more numerous and powerful.  Their history adds to the beauty of the narrative and begins another building block in Bass’s argument that wolves are worth saving.  The Ninemile Wolves, though celebration and science and memoir, is also a call to actions.  Bass wants readers to care about wolves and to do something about their caring.  He does a marvelous job of convincing readers he is right.

Published: 2003


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