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Good Reads  Mammals  Insectivores to Ungulates  Carnivores  Wolves, Dogs, Foxes & other Canids

The Reign of Wolf 21 The Saga of Yellowstone's Legendary Druid Pack

Series: Alpha Wolves of Yellowstone Volume: 2
By: Rick McIntyre(Author), Marc Bekoff(Foreword By)
264 pages, 8 plates with colour photos; b/w illustrations, b/w maps
Publisher: Greystone Books
A rich and factual portrait of the most famous of Yellowstone National Park's reintroduced wolves, The Reign of Wolf 21 continues Rick McIntyre's remarkable trilogy.
The Reign of Wolf 21
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  • The Reign of Wolf 21 ISBN: 9781771649964 Paperback May 2022 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
  • The Reign of Wolf 21 ISBN: 9781771645249 Hardback Oct 2020 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
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About this book

Male and female wolves have the unique ability to form long-lasting, deeply emotional bonds. This is the astonishing true story of two such wolves.

Wolf 21 and Wolf 42 were attracted to each other the moment they met in Yellowstone Park – but Wolf 42's jealous sister hindered their relationship. After an explosive insurrection within the pack, the two wolves came together at last as alpha male and alpha female of the Druids, which, under their benevolent leadership, became the most successful wolf pack in Yellowstone history. Renowned wolf expert and Yellowstone's first-ever wolf interpreter Rick McIntyre recounts their fascinating lives with compassion and a keen eye for detail, drawing on his more than twenty-five years of experience observing Yellowstone wolves in the wild.

The story of Wolf 42 and Wolf 21 is a remarkable work of science writing, offering unparalleled insight into wolf behaviour and Yellowstone's famed wolf reintroduction project. It's also a heart-wrenching love story with a cathartic ending, providing further evidence that the lives of wolves are as eventful – and important – as our own.

Customer Reviews (1)

  • A rich portrait of Yellowstone's favourite wolf
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 9 Feb 2021 Written for Hardback

    The wolves that have been reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park are some of the most intensely monitored animals on the planet. One person, in particular, has dedicated his life to watching and studying them: biological technician and park ranger Rick McIntyre. The Reign of Wolf 21 is the second book in the Alpha Wolves of Yellowstone trilogy and chronicles the life of, arguably, Yellowstone’s most famous and loved wolf.

    If you pick up this book, it is likely that you read and enjoyed the previous book, The Rise of Wolf 8. A foreword by Marc Bekoff and a brief refresher titled “Previously in Lamar Valley” bring you up to speed on the most significant events so far. After this, the book picks up where the last one left off, focusing on the second half of wolf 21’s long life, from 2000 to 2004.

    Let me get one thing out of the way first: you do not read this book for its beautiful prose, but because, like McIntyre, you are absolutely fascinated by wolves. He effectively turns his collection of field notes into a blow-by-blow account. As any proper ethologist would, this means McIntyre factually describes their behaviour: the hunting, migrating, mating, denning, fighting, playing, socialising, defending of territory, and all the other behaviours that make up the daily lives of wolves. It is, admittedly, a narrative style that might not suit everyone. Only occasionally will he allow himself to imagine their motives or thoughts, though I never felt his explanations were implausible given the behavioural observations underpinning them.

    Sprinkled throughout are sparse personal anecdotes of interactions with park visitors or mention of relevant results from scientific studies. By 2000, McIntyre was working in Yellowstone National Park full-time and was no longer moving between different assignments. It was also when he started his unbelievable 6,175-day-streak of being in the park each and every day. Thus, even more so than the previous book, the focus here is solely on the wolves.

    McIntyre’s idiosyncratic writing style notwithstanding, the result of his singular devotion is, again, an unprecedented chronicle of the life of an exceptional wolf. We find wolf 21 as the alpha male of the Druid Peak pack, still ruled over by the tyrannical alpha female, wolf 40, and her sister, wolf 42, who is 21’s love interest. Wolf 40 quickly gets her comeuppance, leaving 21 and 42 to finally be together and lead the pack. And lead it they do. By the end of 2001, 42 and three other females all have offspring, the majority of which survive thanks to the gentle and cooperative leadership of the alpha pair. At this point the Druid pack balloons to a record-breaking 37 members, the largest-ever recorded wolf pack anywhere.

    Here is where there is one noticeable improvement compared to The Rise of Wolf 8: the book’s structure. Whereas the first book had one map and a few family trees at the beginning, this book is divided into parts, one for each year, containing several chapters. Each part is prefaced by a range map of territories for that year, and family trees of all the packs that play a role. I remarked upon the need for more visuals when reviewing the first book, and, though I take no credit for it, I am glad to see that McIntyre made that change. And you will need them because this superpack can, of course, not last. As the new generation matures, male suitors show up and other wolves strike out on their own, so that by 2002 four new packs form, all led by former Druid females. The newcomers to those packs and their offspring quickly make for a tangled web so that by the end of the book it can become a bit of a struggle to tell apart the different wolves.

    Besides wolves 21 and 42, two others play particularly important roles. Wolf 253, a son of 21, ends up with a permanent injury to his hind leg from a snare and, later in life, injuries to a further two other legs. Nevertheless, he proves to be tough as nails and remains a devoted Druid member. And then there is an outsider, wolf 302, a dashing bad boy from the neighbouring Leopold pack who is very popular with the ladies. Possibly a nephew of 21, he breeds with quite a few Druid females, effectively cuckolding 21. In many ways, 302 is the opposite of the devoted leader that 21 is and the two maintain a long-running contentious relationship.

    The Reign of Wolf 21 again allows a peek into the private lives of wolves, revealing both how individuals have unique personalities and characters (something Frans de Waal and Carl Safina have convinced me of), but also describing remarkable behaviours. Two stood out in particular in this book. First is how wolves will readily face down other predators such as bears and mountain lions – and be successful despite the danger. The other was an entertaining chapter containing observations on the mutually beneficial relationship between wolves and ravens.

    Wolves 21 and 42 end up having a long and very successful reign, living to be almost nine years old, twice as long as your average Yellowstone wolf. Safina’s Beyond Words already contained a touching description of how it ends, and, by my interpretation, McIntyre foreshadowed it in The Rise of Wolf 8: “Years later I would stand on the hill in that meadow, next to the conifer, and experience the most profound moment I ever had with 21, but that is a story for another time” (p. 227). Even so, when the inevitable end came I will not deny that I cried, that is how much McIntyre had me invested in their lives. Does he insert some dramatic flair in his description here? Certainly. But if anyone knew these wolves intimately, it is McIntyre, and what he writes is entirely plausible in my opinion.

    With this epic story of wolf 21 now told, who will be the subject of the final book? The epilogue of The Rise of Wolf 8 announced that the next two books would deal with the story of 21, his relatives, and his descendants. No details have been revealed as I write this, but it could be wolf 911, whose story we are promised on page 80, or wolf 302’s attempted takeover of the Druid pack mentioned on page 229. Whichever it will be, I will gladly sit down with the third book and immerse myself in their lives once more. For now, as a narrative counterbalance to the hard science described in, for example, the recently published Yellowstone Wolves, these first two books in the trilogy are without equal in their level of intimate detail.
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Rick McIntyre has spent more than fifty years watching wolves in America's national parks, twenty-five of those years in Yellowstone, where he has accumulated over 100,000 wolf sightings and educated the public about the park's most famous wolves. He has spoken about the Yellowstone wolves with 60 Minutes, NPR, and CBC, and he is profiled extensively in Nate Blakeslee's American Wolf and in international publications. He lives in Silver Gate, Montana.

Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Series: Alpha Wolves of Yellowstone Volume: 2
By: Rick McIntyre(Author), Marc Bekoff(Foreword By)
264 pages, 8 plates with colour photos; b/w illustrations, b/w maps
Publisher: Greystone Books
A rich and factual portrait of the most famous of Yellowstone National Park's reintroduced wolves, The Reign of Wolf 21 continues Rick McIntyre's remarkable trilogy.
Media reviews

"A redemption story, an adventure story, and perhaps above all, a love story."
– Nate Blakeslee, New York Times-bestselling author of American Wolf

"Like Thomas McNamee, David Mech, Barry Lopez, and other literary naturalists with an interest in wolf behavior, McIntyre writes with both elegance and flair, making complex biology and ethology a pleasure to read. Fans of wild wolves will eat this one up."
Kirkus starred review

"Like Darwin, McIntyre is an inclusionist and is thus able to enter the hearts and minds of wolves, providing us with a consummately rounded picture of their lives. Along the way, he creates a fully realized world that stands whole and sublime alongside our far more troubled human one."
Mountain Journal

"A gripping tale of triumph and loss told with an unsurpassed appreciation for the wolves of Yellowstone and the natural world they inhabit."
– Bernd Heinrich, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Vermont and author of Mind of the Raven

"I'm always eager for the next book by Rick McIntyre. I learn so much fascinating information about wolves and their interactions with each other and with their prey."
– L. David Mech, author of The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species, now in its 50th year in print

"It is the way [Rick McIntyre] sees wolves – as fellow social beings with stories to share – that makes his books so powerful."
– Ed Bangs, former US Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator for the Northern Rockies

"This book is a treasure."
– Douglas W. Smith, PhD, Yellowstone Wolf Project Leader, Yellowstone National Park

"Rick is constantly collecting information – from his own observations and those made by others. He is a researcher to the bone and an amazing witness to the wolves' incredible stories."
– Scott Frazier, Crow/Santee, director of Project Indigenous

"In his second book on Yellowstone wolves, Rick McIntyre provides a riveting history about a powerful dynasty, a wolf pack called the Druids. There were palace revolutions, despotic leaders, and interlopers to contend with, overlaying the incredible daily challenge of making a living with just teeth and feet. Life begets life, and this fascinating story is dominated by the overwhelming strength of family bonds, bravery, and benevolence."
– Rolf Peterson, Michigan Technological University, author of The Wolves of Isle Royale: A Broken Balance

"Rick brilliantly weaves the dramatic life-story of wolf 21 through the intertwining of his life with the different personalities of his mate wolf 42, their sons and daughters, and members of nearby packs. As a story teller, Rick generates great compassion in the reader – a fitting antidote to the hatred and indifference that still plagues this long-persecuted species."
– Dr. John and Mary Theberge, wildlife ecologists, wolf biologists and authors

"Wolves are possessed of an ancient and enduring wisdom. This is why old-time Indians used to spend the kind of time watching wolves that Rick has, and for the same reasons – to learn FROM them, not just ABOUT them."
– John Potter, Anishinaabe wildlife artist

"If ever there was a 'perfect' wolf, it was Wolf 21. He lived an outsized life, more like an action hero than a real creature. And no one knew him better than master storyteller Rick McIntyre."
– Carl Safina, author of Becoming Wild

"No wolf's life has ever been laid before us in such detail and with such rich analysis."
– Norm Bishop, director of the Wolf Recovery Foundation and co-author of Yellowstone's Northern Range: Complexity and Change in a Wildland Ecosystem

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