Thursday, January 19, 2012

Amid scandal, a top Alaska wildlife official quits

Amid scandal, a top Alaska wildlife official quits Alaska's politically-charged system of wildlife management -- detailed in a 2011 HCNcover story -- is looking disgraceful now.
Corey Rossi -- the controversial director of wildlife conservation, within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game -- has been charged with 12 counts of violating hunting regulations. Rossi, 51, has resigned -- and many of his employees are glad to see him go.
Rossi was a Sarah Palin legacy: Near the end of her brief reign as governor, in December 2008 Palin appointed Rossi to a newly created position with an ominous title -- "assistant commissioner for abundance management." That was code for the desire to kill more wolves and bears, to try to boost populations of moose and caribou, so hunters might have more opportunities to bring home trophy antlers and meat. Then in 2010 Gov. Sean Parnell promoted Rossi to be director of wildlife conservation, overseeing 160 seasonal employees and a $20 million budget, with a mission of encouraging public involvement in wildlife conservation in Alaska.
Before the state jobs, Rossi made his career as a federal predator-killer. In that role, according to the Associated Press, he employed Palin's parents for 14 years (Palin's mother reportedly asked Palin to appoint him to the state agency). Rossi does not have a college degree; while leading the state agency, he pushed for more aerial gunning of wolves, and snaring of bears including grizzlies. He's also been active in the Alaska chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, a group that pushes for more killing of wolves around the West.
Rossi and other controversial appointees defended their predator-killing policies in the HCN story -- which was headlined "Palin, politics, and Alaska predator control" -- including the gassing of wolf puppies in a den:
Rossi says it was the most humane way of killing them. "No one likes to kill puppies, and we don't emphasize that we do it. But animal shelters kill 4 million (dog) puppies and kittens a year (and) everyone knows that the animal shelters aren't mean. ... Predator control is not designed to be fair," Rossi says. "It's not fair chase (an ethical standard for hunting). We're supposed to be as efficient as possible."
More than 150 biologists and other experts had signed a series of letters opposing Rossi, saying he lacked credentials and his policies were misguided. In an April 2010 letter, for instance, biologists said Rossi had made "maximum production of wild game meat ... the ... single, overriding objective." They said that "science, rather than politics, should be the guiding philosophy of professional leadership" and "an effective Director must also be able to lead the Division in matters such as habitat protection, biodiversity conservation, endangered species management, and watchable wildlife."
Of course many states have politicians meddling in wildlife management, but as the HCN story showed, that dynamic has been especially obvious in Alaska for many decades. Our writer, Tracy Ross -- an award-winning journalist and book author who has worked as backcountry ranger in Alaska -- chronicled how the state's wildlife agents and hunters kill more than 1,000 wolves per year in the efforts to boost moose and caribou. Alaska voters have passed two ballot measures limiting or banning aerial gunning, yet the Legislature, governors and their appointees repeatedly overrode those ballot measures. A third ballot measure was defeated in 2008 when Palin's administration campaigned heavily against it.
HCN also reported how a great deal of Alaska research shows that predators like wolves do impact prey populations. It's part of a shift in the old prevailing thought that prey and predators naturally interact without population disasters. As Tracy Ross wrote:
With decades of information-gathering like this, Alaska arguably has more knowledge of predator-prey dynamics than any other state. It is knowledge that other states struggling with their own predator issues can learn from, and it includes some surprises that wildlife-lovers may not want to accept. Singling out and killing a sole pack of wolves (including their puppies), for instance, can almost immediately boost a caribou population in danger of extinction. But actions like these are inciting a war between predator-control advocates and those who -- for a variety of reasons -- oppose such tactics. The science informs the politics, but the politics threaten to overrule the science.
In an accompanying HCN essay, headlined "How my thoughts on wolves have changed," Craig Medred, a former outdoors columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, who now works, wrote:
The wolves that periodically venture into the valley behind my home are blood-thirsty killers. That's what I admire about them. They evolved to near perfection in their ecological niche ... I love wolves. And I have come to believe those wolves should die."
One of Alaska's most questionable practices -- the use of snares baited with food to capture and kill hundreds of black bears and dozens of grizzly bears in recent years -- was described by Ross thusly:
According to some people who've seen bear-snaring in action, as soon as a bear is caught by the wire, it jerks frantically trying to free itself. Though the program's supporters say the snares are not painful as long as the bears don't struggle for too long, both black bears and grizzlies have been known to maim themselves while gripped by the wire. Black bears reportedly grunt and moan in a way that sounds like a person crying. At least three grizzlies that were accidentally snared had to be euthanized.
In the wake of Rossi's bust and resignation, more than 70 biologists and former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles sent another letter to the state Board of Game, protesting the bear-snaring:
Unlike hunting, where a hunter can carefully select for large, male bears, snaring is indiscriminate. Snares catch black bears and brown bears, female bears with cubs, and sometimes even older cubs. ... Snaring and killing of bears regardless of age, species, and gender is incompatible with the scientific principles and the ethics of modern wildlife management including the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation.
And how did Rossi get busted? Wildlife agencies in other states reportedly initiated the investigation. Eventually, according to the charging document, Rossi admitted that he'd taken three out-of-state hunters -- Robert "Bruce" Hubbard from Utah, David Reis from Colorado, and Duane Stroupe from Oregon -- into Alaska's Game Management Unit 16B in June 2008; the out-of-state hunters killed four black bears and Rossi killed one on that trip; then Rossi filed state Alaska paperwork falsely reporting that he'd killed three of the bears the hunters had killed (Reis filed the paperwork for the bear he killed).
It's not clear whether Rossi's resignation, and the scandal, will cause the Alaska agencies to back away from bear snaring, aerial gunning of wolves and occasional gassing of wolf pups. The Board of Game isconsidering whether to expand the bear-snaring. At that agency's meeting on Friday, a prominent member of the Board of Game, Ted Spraker, said he wants more aerial gunning -- of bears as well as wolves -- and continuation of the bear-snaring.
Rossi's boss until he resigned -- Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell -- told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday:
"... There are some people who would like to make this (Rossi's bust) about the department's programs, but it isn't. This is about an individual; it's not about our programs."
But as HCN reported, Campbell herself is one more questionable appointee: She was also part of Gov. Sarah Palin's administration -- serving as a fisheries policy adviser from 2007 to 2009 -- and her college degree, from Pacific Lutheran University, is in education, not wildlife science.
Since the Alaska programs are created and run by political appointees who often have questionable credentials and goals, then despite what Cora Campbell says, this is all about Alaska's whole system of wildlife management.
Ray Ring is HCN's senior editor, based in Bozeman, Mont.

SFGATE.COM: Seeks Love Stories for New Free eBook to Publish in "I Love Wolves" A Collection of Your Amazing Stories on Valentine's Day 2012

The Hearty Ingredients of Canis Soup By The Dog Zombie

The Hearty Ingredients of Canis Soup
By The Dog Zombie | December 27, 2011 |
The wolf is iconic and charismatic. We see him on t-shirts, on posters, and in fantasy novels. Conservationists do battle with ranchers to preserve populations of wolves. The coyote, on the other hand, is neither iconic nor loved. A newcomer to suburbia, he is feared as a suspected predator of cats, small dogs, and even small children. He is rarely seen on t-shirts; his name is not used to designate a rank of Boy Scout.
But now that we have the genetic tools to look at these animals’ genomes, it turns out that many of the populations of coyotes in North America are actually coyote-wolf hybrids, as are many of the populations of wolves. Unable to draw clear lines between these species, biologists have dubbed the populations of hybrids “Canis soup.”
What’s a Canis?
The term “canid soup” has also been used for this mess of wolf, coyote, and even dog genes that we find in some populations of canids. So what does Canis mean, and what is a canid?
These are terms related to the scientific classification of the species in question. Going through the hierarchy, we have Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Canidae (canids), and Genus Canis. Wolves, dogs, jackals, and foxes belong to the family Canidae, but only wolves, dogs, and jackals (not foxes) belong to the genus Canis. We call the wolf-like canids “canines” and the fox-like canids “vulpines.”
As foxes do not interbreed with wolves, dogs, or jackals, what we’re talking about here is correctly Canis soup, or perhaps canine soup, but not canid soup.
Is it Canis or is it soup?
The more you dig into wild canines in North America, the more unclear it is where any species lines should be drawn. So who makes up our cast of characters?Canis lupus, sometimes known as Canis lupus lupus to differentiate it from the dog and the dingo, who belong to subspecies. The gray wolf is the largest wild canine, at a 79 pound (36 kg) average weight. (Domestic dogs of some breeds, of course, weigh more than that.) Its coat coloring can vary from white through blond, brown, grey, and black. It is found in the western parts of North America.Canis latrans. This animal is also known as the American jackal or prairie wolf, suggesting that there has been some confusion about how to distinguish canine species for some time. The Western coyote is a significantly smaller animal than the gray wolf, weighing in closer to 20 pounds (7-14 kg). Its coat color is less varied than the gray wolf’s, almost always a grey-brown as you see in the image here.Canis lycaon, is Ontario, Canada. This wolf is smaller than the gray wolf, and has a distinctive grey-red coat with black hairs along its back. We believe that this wolf was the original North American canine, and that Canis lupusand Canis latransimmigrated over the land bridge from Europe. There’s a lot of debate about the species status of C. lycaon, as many Eastern wolves appear to have significant C. latransheritage. Some people suggest that the Eastern wolf is in fact a C. lupus/C. latrans hybrid, or, alternately, a subspecies of the gray wolf, C. lupus lycaon.Canis lycaon —  but then again, there is debate about whether C. lycaonis really different from C. lupus at wolf or Southeastern wolf is subject to truly intense debate about species status. Is it his own species, Canis rufus? A subset of the gray wolf, Canis lupus rufus? Or a population of Eastern wolf, Canis lycaon? It has a beautiful red coat, and is smaller in size than the gray wolf. Its range was historically the southeastern U.S., but it went extinct in the wild by 1980. A founder population of 19 animals survived in captivity, and a reintroduction project in North Carolina was begun in 1987. Here the red wolf is today enthusiastically interbreeding with coyotes, leaving conservationists to wonder what they are conserving.
The three species of wild canines in North America today, then, are Canis lupus, Canis latrans, and Canis lycaon. But we really have just two soup ingredients, wolf and coyote. There are pure wolves (Canis lupus) and there are pure coyotes (Canis latrans), and there are populations that are mixtures of more or less wolf and more or less coyote (Eastern wolves, Eastern coyotes, and red wolves). There appears to be some dog mixed in there, too. You can think of gray wolf and Western coyote as ingredients, and everything else as soup.
Coyote flavor versus wolf flavor
The 2011 paper “A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids” analyzed the various soup flavors out there and presented their findings in some easy-to-understand charts (below). Here, the different colors represent different amounts of each ingredient. The first chart describes the Eastern wolf, here referred to as the Algonquin wolf, which is mostly gray wolf (green) and joint wolf/coyote (yellow), but also has significant coyote (red). The second chart describes the red wolf; at a glance, it is obvious that the red wolf has a much larger percentage of coyote genes (again, red in this chart). These charts both use τ to denote the number of generations since the most recent admixture with another species.
The two coyote recipes pictured below describe two subpopulations of what I have described as the Eastern coyote; this particular paper considers them split into Northeastern and Southeastern coyotes. At a glance, these populations are mainly pure coyote (red), with big dashes of mixed coyote/wolf (yellow), and small but notable amounts of our friend the dog (dark blue, light blue, and pink).
Wild canine populations challenge us to let go of our obsessive need to categorize. Instead of slotting a canine population into a single species category, we might instead think of it as existing on a spectrum from “wolf-like” to “coyote-like.” A strongly wolf-like canid would be larger, sixty to ninety pounds. It would require a larger range, and would be a deerivore, subsisting off of larger game. It is likely to be a shyer animal, found only in more rural or wild areas. Conversely, a strongly coyote-like canid would be much smaller, fifteen to thirty pounds, with a smaller range. It might eat deer as well as rabbits and et cetera (probably a lot of et cetera, as coyotes are more willing to scrounge than wolves are). It would be more likely to be found in suburban areas, with a greater tolerance for human proximity. A given population of canines might fall anywhere on the spectrum between the two. The fact that a spectrum actually exists is beautifully demonstrated by the Eastern coyote, who has mixed coyote/wolf ancestry, is mid-sized between coyote and wolf, and has a mid-sized range.
What’s your preferred flavor?
Does the intermixture of various ingredients in the formation of soupy populations matter as more than a gee-whiz story? To some people, the answer is very much yes. The conservationists who are committing significant resources to the preservation of the red wolf don’t want to see the wolves that they reintroduce interbreed with coyotes. If the reintroduced wolf population blends into a coyote population, then are these resources actually being spent just to support a bunch of coyotes (who have been doing fine on their own)? At the same time, evidence shows that the founder population of 19 red wolves was already significantly coyotified, and we’re not sure how long it’s been since there have been any pure Canis rufus specimens in North America.
It is, of course, possible to think about the problem without asking for genetics to provide the complete answer for us. The red wolf is a red wolf, a beautiful, iconic animal that has lived in the southeastern United States throughout living memory. We know what the red wolf looks like (and that hasn’t been changing much, no matter what is happening to his genes). We also know that it is important in a particular environmental niche, and that hasn’t been changing much either.
Practically, the mixture of coyote genes into fragile wolf populations may be a good thing. Because coyotes are better at living on smaller ranges and in closer proximity to humans than wolves are, they are better adapted to the realities of North America today. As their genes mix into wolf populations, these populations become demonstrably more robust, more able to tolerate human presence, and able to survive on smaller ranges. It is possible, in fact, that coyote genes are exactly what are eventually going to allow a red wolf population to flourish without human assistance.
Conclusions, if we can make any
Does it matter that some of what we think of as wolves have coyote genes? I think the answer comes down to a cultural perception of the wolf as a romantic and charismatic creature, and of the coyote as a pest. Perhaps any mixture of the two is perceived as diminishing the wolf. A friend of mine once made this analogy: if you have an entire bottle of fine wine, and you pour just a teaspoon of sewage into it, now you have a bottle of sewage. Does any amount of coyote, no matter how miniscule, make the wolf impure, and less worth conserving than it was?
As a culture, I hope we can come to appreciate the strengths that the coyote brings to Canis soup, in its ability to coexist with humans in the modern world. It may be what saves populations of charismatic wolves from permanent loss. As we look at populations of canines in North America, we should learn to say that one is more coyote-like and another more wolf-like, on a spectrum from one flavor of soup to another, and appreciate the benefits of both.
Canis soup has been used before as an example of the blurriness of some species lines and the inadequacy of many existing definitions of a species, but it also provides some interesting insights into the fluidity of canid morphology and behavioral characteristics. How did something as large and wild as a wolf become something as variably-sized and tame as a dog? Moreover, how did this change happen (presumably) without a carefully planned breeding program? Why is it so easy to breed types of dogs with such different behavioral and physical characteristics, especially compared to the much more limited variety of breeds of cat, horse, or cow? The canine genome clearly has the capacity for expression across a startlingly wide array of phenotypes. The evidence of this variety has always been right before our eyes, but we are just beginning to understand its implications.
· Adams J. R., Leonard J. A., Waits L. P. Widespread occurrence of a domestic dog mitochondrial DNA haplotype in southeastern US coyotes. Molecular Ecology. 2003;12:541-546.
· Adams J. R., Kelly B. T., Waits L. P. Using faecal DNA sampling and GIS to monitor hybridization between red wolves (Canis rufus) and coyotes (Canis latrans).Molecular Ecology. 2003;12:2175-2186.
· Hailer Frank, Leonard Jennifer A. Hybridization among three native North American Canis species in a region of natural sympatry. PLoS ONE. 2008;3:e3333+.
· vonHoldt Bridgett M., Pollinger John P., Earl Dent A., et al. A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids. Genome research. 2011;21:1294-1305.
· Way Jonathan G., Rutledge Linda, Wheeldon Tyler, White Bradley N. Genetic Characterization of Eastern ”Coyotes” in Eastern Massachusetts. Northeastern Naturalist. 2010;17:189-204.
· Wilson Paul J., Grewal Sonya K., Mallory Frank F., White Bradley N. Genetic Characterization of Hybrid Wolves across Ontario. Journal of Heredity. 2009;100:S80-S89.
· Zimmer Carl. What Is a Species? Sci Am. 2008;298:72-79.
Images: Gray Wolf (Image courtesy of vargklo at Wikipedia and Flickr); Western Coyote (Image courtesy of Rebecca Richardson at Wikipedia and Flickr); Eastern wolf (Image courtesy Christian Jansky at Wikipedia); Eastern coyote/coywolf (Image fromEastern Coyote Research); Red wolf (image from True Wild Life); Two recipes for wolf flavored Canis soup (vonHoldt, 2011); Two recipes for coyote flavored Canis soup (vonHoldt, 2011)About the Author: The Dog Zombie studies dog brains by pursuing DVM (veterinary medicine) and MS degrees. She is currently in her fourth year of the DVM degree, having completed her research year. Her interests include neurobiology, neuroendocrinology, ethology, animal behavior, canid domestication, shelter medicine, animal welfare, veterinary ethics, open access publishing, and the philosophy of science.

California Welcomes Wild Wolf for First time in 87 Years

Posted by Renee Lee, U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication, on January 18, 2012 at 3:52 PM
A gray wolf (not OR7)
For the first time in almost 90 years, the state of California has become home to a wolf.
A few days shy of the new  year, OR7 meandered alone into the Golden State after crossing the state border shared by Oregon. The 2-year-old gray wolf is the first and only documented wolf in California since 1924, and is protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
Journey, as the wolf is nicknamed, originally belongs to a wolf pack in Wallowa County, which is also home to Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in northeast Oregon. In February, Oregon state scientists attached a GPS collar to the wandering wolf. Since then, scientists have tracked Journey as he zigzagged throughout the state, becoming the first wild wolf in more than 60 years to appear west of the Cascades, and eventually reaching northern California Dec. 28 – all in search of a mate.
Since Journey’s southward quest for a mate began, he has trekked through Siskiyou National Forest, Umpqua National Forest, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Today, Journey was last seen roaming through Lassen National Forest in northern California.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: 'Promise of the Wolves' and 'Secrets of the Wolves', by Dorothy Hearst
Review: 'Promise of the Wolves' and 'Secrets of the Wolves', by Dorothy Hearst
Posted by Fred on Wed 18 Jan 2012 - 14:21
'Promise of the Wolves'; NYC, Simon & Schuster, June 2008, hardcover $25 (341 pages), paperback $11, Kindle $11.99.
'Secrets of the Wolves'; NYC, Simon & Schuster, August 2011, hardcover $24.00(371 pages), Kindle $10.99.
Most of Promise of the Wolves is set 14,000 year ago, when both wolves and men lived in primitive, nomadic tribes, except for a Prologue set 40,000 years ago. According to that Prologue, the “promise of the wolf” — “What is the promise of the wolf? Never consort with humans. Never kill a human unprovoked. Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live.” (blurb) — was already an ancient law among wolves 40,000 years ago. Lydda, a wolf pack member of that time, is drawn to befriend a human, with cryptically untold (until halfway through the novel) but presumably fatal results. Jump to the main story, only 14,000 years ago:
Promise of the Wolves takes us where time is counted in phases of the moon, distance is measured in wolflengths, and direction by the scent of the nearest trail. Years of research into the world of wolves combines with mythical tale-telling to present an epic adventure of wolves, humans, and the remarkable bond we share. (blurb)
The legends say that when the blood of the Wide Valley wolves mingles with the blood of the wolves outside the valley, the wolf who bears that blood will stand forever between two worlds. It is said that such a wolf holds the power to destroy not only her pack, but all of wolfkind. That’s the real reason Ruuqo came to kill my brother, my sisters, and me in the faint light of the early morning four weeks after we were born. (p. 9)
The narrator, and protagonist of the trilogy, is Kaala Smallteeth, a cub born into the Swift River wolf pack of the Wide Valley; a rich land of five packs of wolves, several tribes of men, and untold numbers of other predators and prey animals. Kaala’s mother had mated with an Outsider wolf, which is why Swift River pack leader Ruuqo has come to kill her cubs.
He has just killed all but Kaala when two Greatwolves (dire wolves?) arrive to order him to spare her. Yes, Kaala has Outsider blood. She even bears the “mark of the moon” (a white crescent in her gray fur) on her chest; an especially ominous omen. Ruuqo argues,
'You know the wolves of the Wide Valley must keep their blood pure, or risk the consequences. If we allow her to live, the Ancients could send drought, or a freeze that kills all the prey, or a plague. It’s happened before. The legends tell us so.’” (p. 34)
But the Greatwolves have received a message (from whom?) that Kaala will bring great fortune or great misfortune to all wolves, so they must let her live until they can learn which it is.
The novel is Kaala’s autobiography. The reader learns about life among the wolves in the Swift River pack, and by implication all wolf packs, as she grows from cubhood into a littlewolf, then a yearling youngwolf.
The wolves are distinct personalities: adult leader Ruuqo and his Lifemate Rissa, the tracker Werna and oldwolf Trevigg, yearlings Minn and Yllin, and Rissa’s pups Unnan, Borlla, Reel, and Marra, who would normally be Kaala’s playmates except that Unnan and Borlla are bullies; and almost all of the Swift River wolves take their lead from Ruuqo who distrusts her. Her only real friend is Ázzuen, a pup who seems even more wretched than she is; but he is smart! (Hearst’s well-researched picture of wolf pack life tactfully leaves out why there are no sick or elderly wolves.)
There is also a rich mythology, and an intriguing partnership between wolves and ravens who like to speak in haiku:
Hide now, babywolf.
Maybe raven won’t catch you.
At least not this time. (p. 48)
Kaala meets a young raven, Tlitoo, also with a crescent marking, who claims to have been told by the Bigwolves (Greatwolves) to be her secret guardian. Like Richard Adams with Watership Down, the wolves have a fascinating religion. But not a language, except in annoyingly cryptic bits. The Wide Valley is the home of many prey herds: horses, deer, aurochs, antelope, elkryn. What are elkryn? That is a word in wolf language. Isn’t the whole story presumably in wolf language, conveniently translated into modern English for the reader’s benefit? Never mind; we clearly won’t find out what the elkryn are until Hearst wants us to encounter them. (Clue: they’re extinct today.)
This hinting at mysteries goes on throughout, because Kaala is constantly reminded of her supernatural heritage. Who was her Outsider father, and how did her mother meet him? Who is the lupine ghost who comes to her in dreams?
The dreamwolf laughed. ‘No, little Smallteeth, though I am one of your many mothers from a time longer ago than you can imagine.’ I felt a warmth suffusing me, easing the aches in my body. ‘You are not meant to die today, sisterwolf. You promised your mother you would survive and become pack. You must live and carry on my work. You have much to do.’ (p. 40)
Well, that one is obvious right away; it’s Lydda from 40,000 years ago. Why won’t anyone answer Kaala’s frequent questions?
‘Why not?’ I asked [Ruuqo].
‘Do you question a leaderwolf?’ (p. 196)
This is especially frustrating to Kaala because she can recognize signs that her supernatural destiny may be true. There is the dreamwolf whom only she can see. There are Tlitoo’s hints:
‘There is something the Bigwolves are not telling us, wolflet,’ Tlitoo rasped. His voice was unusually serious. (p. 182)
Whenever she is near a human, her crescent chest marking burns and exerts an irresistible pull on her:
Still I tried to get to the humans, scrabbling my legs under Werrna’s strong body. It hurt when she stopped me. The ache in my chest had lessened as I moved to the humans, and it intensified when I could not go to them. (p. 114)
How can all the signs urge Kaala to go to the humans if this is bad? The pull is finally too great; also, Kaala gets tired of being snubbed.
Tlitoo was waiting for me, and flew above my head as I began the long walk to the human homesite. The humans were why I was different and why Ruuqo disliked me. They held the secret to who I really was, and whether I was bad luck – and to whether I could ever really be a Swift River wolf. I was done with waiting. (p. 197)
Kaala (followed by Ázzuen and Maara) sneaks into a human camp and befriends the girl, TaLi, and her boyfriend, BreLan. What happens in the final 100+ pages of Promise of the Wolves tells the Very Dramatic result of that. But it is not really a conclusion, because this is only the first Book of the trilogy.
Secrets of the Wolves continues Kaala’s story. She, and Ázzuen and Marra, have been driven out of the Wide Valley, but they must return and get the Valley’s wolves and humans to live in friendship.
It had been three moons since we’d last seen our humans […] when the humans and wolves of the Wide Valley had nearly gone to war. […] I had stopped that war, with the help of my packmates, and in doing so had convinced the leader of the Greatwolves to spare us. In exchange I had made a promise: that for one year I would ensure that the wolves and humans of the Wide Valley did not fight. If I succeeded, the Wide Valley wolves and humans would live. If I failed, the Greatwolves would kill us all. (p. 11)
The Greatwolves impose an additional condition.
The council has decreed that for the course of one year, wolves must live with the humans, as members of the same family, as members of the same pack. (p. 36)
The three youngwolves “who at nine and a half moons old were not yet quite considered adults” (p. 13), plus Tlitoo the raven, are eager to be the wolves’ ambassadors, to the outrage of the older wolves who are sure that they are too immature for such an important mission.
‘Pups,’ Ruuqo snarled. ‘We’re supposed to entrust this to pups?’ (p. 37)
But the Greatwolves demand that ALL the Swift River pack go to live with the humans. This worries the youngwolves, who feel sure that the adults are too hidebound to live with humans peaceably.
A more troubling concern is that the wolves must remain equal partners with the humans.
’They [the Greatwolves] said smallwolves are weak [Tlitoo says]. They said wolves will be the humans’ slaves. They said the paradox will make the smallwolves fail and that it would be better to kill all wolves than to let the true nature of wolves be compromised. I heard them. They were loud. (p. 38)
Since the reader knows that prehistoric wolves who became domesticated did in fact evolve into tamed dogs, it seems that Maara and her companions cannot win without failing.
In this middle book, the main question is whether the Wide Valley wolves will come to successfully live with the humans or not. In a subplot, a strange wolf, Demmen, appears who claims to be an envoy from Maara’s exiled mother.
‘For now, your mother is safe, though she is pursued by Greatwolves outside the valley who are determined that the two of you should not be reunited. […] She has asked that you come to her. She said it’s important not only to her but also to the greater good of wolfkind.’(p. 99)
Can Demmen be trusted? Will extremists among the Greatwolves sabotage the Swift River wolves’ attempt to live with the humans? What is the real reason that ravens live in partnership with wolves?
Secrets of the Wolves introduces dramatic new mysteries. Everyone is keeping secrets from everyone else. Each group has two factions; the Greatwolves, the smallwolves, the humans, and the ravens, all trying to win allies and betray enemies. Some of the mysteries are exasperating because they seem to be unnecessary; just for the sake of being mysterious. But there is plenty here to keep the reader captivated.
Dorothy Hearst says in her blog that she is racing to get The Wolf Chronicles Book 3 written.