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Wolves! Strange and Wonderful----The Story Behind the Book

Like many people, I've long been fascinated by wolves. Unlike many, I've been in wolf country in the company of a person who is now one of the world's most accomplished wolf scientists. As a freshman at Cornell University, studying wildlife ecology, I met and made friends with a classmate I called Dave. He is now formally known as Dr. L. David Mech. This book is dedicated to him, and is accurate in text and art because he carefully checked both.


Dave's first wolf research happened on Isle Royale National Park (in Lake Superior). His adventures and discoveries there inspired me to write Wolfman: Exploring the World of Wolves, published in 1983. (The success of that book led to others about scientists who study certain wild animals: Batman, Bearman, Elephant Woman, Jackal Woman, and Dolphin Man.)

It seemed inevitable that I would eventually write about wolves in the "strange and wonderful" series, simply because wolves are such legendary animals, but for another reason too. In this series, I deliberately picked certain animals that may be feared, or thought to be dangerous to humans. Thus it is no accident that there are titles in the series about bats, sharks, alligators and crocodiles, snakes, spiders, scorpions--and now wolves. My goal with each subject was to give trustworthy information from actual studies of these creatures--not to spread misinformation that fuels needless fear of them. As the first page of this book says, "scientists have studied the lives of real wolves, not imaginary creatures. Thanks to their discoveries, people's ideas and feelings about wolves have changed."


In Wolves! readers will find plenty to admire about wolves, as native people in North America and elsewhere in the world once did. And they may learn another reason to appreciate them, stated on page 6: "wolves gave humans a great gift:

domesticated dogs, one of the most popular of all pets on Earth. Wolves are the ancestors of all dogs." This book explains how this happened, and on pp. 14-15 the text and the illustrations by Meryl Henderson give details of the rich social lives of wolves, especially with captions and art about their body language. Anyone who is familiar with dogs can recognize the same language. The qualities that many people treasure in their pet dogs are basic wolf behavior.


As I write these words it seems that this book will be the last of the "strange and wonderful" series. Artist Meryl Henderson and I agree that Wolves! is a perfect finale.