Since 2006, as a staffer and then writer-at-large for Texas Monthly, Nate Blakeslee has written about everything from the Texas Legislature to the finer details of sewerage. His new book, American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West (Crown Publishing, October 17), follows the story of the legendary Yellowstone wolf O-Six and her Lamar Canyon pack.
Texas Monthly: As a journalist, you haven’t delved much into matters of wildlife. Why the sudden interest in wolves?
Nate Blakeslee: The book is a story about wolves, but it’s also a story about people. You can’t write about wildlife in the West without writing about politics, because wilderness in the twenty-first century is something that has to be deliberately created—as strange as that may sound—and not everybody agrees on what to leave in and what to leave out. When the federal government reintroduced wolves to the northern Rockies twenty years ago, it was very controversial. Ranchers and elk hunters were firmly opposed, as were the state legislatures in the area.
The book follows the story of that struggle through the lens of the rise and fall of one wolf pack, whose alpha female, nicknamed O-Six, became a favorite of park visitors. What’s unusual about the wolves in O-Six’s pack is that their lives were as carefully documented as animals in a zoo. A small cadre of dedicated wolf watchers followed the pack and kept daily notes and graciously agreed to share them with me. This meant I could reconstruct the life of the pack with novelistic detail. Raising pups, fighting off grizzlies, running down elk, battling rival packs—it’s all in there, and more.