Wolves on a wilderness island illuminate lessons on the environment, extinction, and life.
For more than a quarter-century, celebrated biologist John Vucetich has studied the wolves and the moose that sustain them, of the boreal forest of Isle Royale National Park, an island in the northwest corner of Lake Superior. During this time, he has witnessed both the near extinction of the local wolf population, driven largely by climate change and the intensely debated relocation of other wolves to the island in an effort to stabilize and maintain Isle Royale's ecosystem health. In Restoring the Balance, Vucetich combines environmental philosophy with field notes chronicling his day-to-day experience as a scientist. Examining the fate of wolves in the wild, he shares lessons from these wolves and explains their impact on humanity's fundamental responsibilities to the natural world.
Vucetich's engaging narrative and unique, clear-eyed perspective provide an accessible course in wolf biology and behavioural ecology. He tackles profound unresolved questions that will shape our future understanding of what it means to be good to life on earth: Are humans the only persons to inhabit Earth, or do we share the planet with uncounted nonhuman persons? What does a healthy relationship with the natural world look like? Should we intervene in nature's course in order to care for it? Touching on the triumph and tragedy of how wolves kill moose to the Shakespearian drama of wolves' social lives, Vucetich comments on ravens, mice, winter ticks, and even a life-changing encounter he shared with a toad.
Vucetich produces exquisite insight by masterfully connecting his observations to a far-reaching history of ideas about the environment. Combining natural history and memoir with fascinating commentary on humanity's relationship with nature, Restoring the Balance evokes our connections with wolves as fellow apex predators, demonstrating how our shifting views on nature have implications for both their survival and ours. This book will be treasured by any thoughtful reader looking to deepen their relationship with nature and learn about the wolves of Isle Royale along the way.
1. Why Wolves?
2. Thoughts of a Moose
4. Balance of Nature
5. Exogenous Forces
6. The Old Gray Guy
7. The Unraveling
8. Sense of Place
9. All Natural
10. Restoring the Balance
John A. Vucetich is a distinguished professor of wildlife conservation at Michigan Technological University. He is the leader of the Isle Royale wolf-moose project.
"This book is juicy with field notes – the stories of charismatic individual wolves like the Old Gray Guy, and complex science made understandable and seductively enticing to the reader with even the tiniest interest in wolf survival and natural history."
– Nancy Jo Tubbs, International Wolf
"This exhilarating book is a paean to reasoned argument as illustrated by the biology and management of the wolves of Isle Royale. A remarkable triumph – beautifully crafted."
– David W. Macdonald, University of Oxford, editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Mammals
"This special and original book, which offers valuable lessons on reintroduction and the ramifications of human interactions with the environment, will be widely read, critiqued, and circulated by anyone interested in wolves. Vucetich is a top-notch scientist; everything he writes is fantastic."
– Alexandra D. Krevitz, Kunak Ecological Studies
"Restoring the Balance reveals the importance of understanding what wolves, moose, and other nonhuman stakeholders think, feel, and need – what's in their heads and hearts. Vucetich seamlessly weaves science and ethics into a highly readable narrative that shows why living in balance with the natural world is the only road forward."
– Marc Bekoff, coauthor of A Dog's World: Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans
"In Restoring the Balance, Vucetich uses the world-famous, 63-year-long ecological study of wolves on Isle Royale as a lens to examine humanity's relationship with the environment. The result is an intoxicating amalgam of science, fieldcraft, history, philosophy, and conservation policy, bound together by the observations of a skilled and passionate naturalist."
– Andrew Loveridge, Oxford University, author of Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa's Iconic Cats
"Restoring the Balance is a thoughtful journey – an honest, breathtaking, raucous, and playful exploration of the lives and deaths of wolves, moose, and the humans who observe them. John Vucetich creates a masterful blend of memoir, science, and ethics with a message that is both timely and timeless."
– Michael Paul Nelson, Oregon State University, co-editor of Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril