Canine: an animal of the family Canidae, especially a dog; characteristic of or resembling dogs, wolves, or related animals. (American Heritage Dictionary)
Canidae: a natural family of doglike mammals including wolves, domestic dogs, coyotes, jackals, foxes and hyenas. (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary)
In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter’s Immersion in Wild Yellowstone, by Rick Lamplugh, is a remarkable book, sensitively written. It is Lamplugh’s observations over several years of the wolves of Yellowstone National Park. The story also includes accounts of other wildlife and birds. It’s all about life (and death) in the park – in winter, in the cold and the snow, with ice crystals in the air, the crunch of boots and snowshoes on crusted snow, the steamy breath of life (the animals’ and the author’s), and about love and respect, and of hatred (great and historic hatred), for wolves. The author does an admirable job of painting great images in words:
“Over the crunch of my boots on snow, I hear howling – the sound that I longed for… I stop, lean forward, and cup a hand behind one ear. My breath forms a gossamer curtain between me and the moon. Those wolves are here because of a wildly successful reintroduction [into the park]…, and their haunting calls – drifting in the moonlight – thrill me.
“The Lamar Valley, just two miles wide, seven miles long, and called the Serengeti of North America, offers some of the best wildlife watching in the world. Winter-hungry elk and bison migrate here to graze through snow that is shallower than elsewhere in the park. Wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions stalk the grazers while eagles, ravens, and magpies wait to scavenge. The snowy backdrop makes this saga of death and life easy to spot.”
Rick’s goal in this book, and while living in Yellowstone, “…is to learn everything about this place, though I know that’s not possible. This park… is too complex.” He yearned to understand how the ecosystem worked, and to pass that understanding on to his readers. “From the flies that buzz half-awake in the daytime warmth of our cabin,” he goes on, “to the stoic bison trapped in a race between starvation and spring. From the snow that blows in from the Pacific to the sage that spices this high desert. From the wolf packs that hunt as well-oiled machines to bring down elk to the incredible variety of beetles that scour the bones after the other scavengers are gone. What is the science behind this majesty?”
Rick Lamplugh wrote the book, in part, to discover and describe the science behind the park’s wild wolf majesty. He successfully details the natural history and expressions of awe and wonder in one of America’s most marvelous places and about one of Earth’s most interesting wild critters: the wolf.
Along the way, we learn a lot about wildlife-spotting and ecosystem interrelationships, the weather (especially winters), the history of the park, the re-introduction of wolves and, not least, the pros and cons, love and hatred, of these noble animals.
This book is a good read for all who are fascinated about canines and Canidae, and about one of America’s great national parks and conservation areas. Highly recommended.