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The Hidden Life of Wolves

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Delve into amazingly intimate wolf photography by Jim and Jamie Dutcher, a couple who spent many years living with a pack of wolves at the edge of Idaho's Sawtooth Wilderness, observing their complex social hierarchy. Here is the alpha pair, leaders of the pack, often the only couple that mate. Here are the pups, born with eyes shut in the spring, tousled by their mother through the first six weeks of life. Here is the omega wolf, lowest rankingwolf in the pack, whose subservience, often playful, alleviates pack tension. Here are moments of cooperation and moments of snarling dominance, moments of communication and affection. Here, too, are heartwarming moments of connection between the Dutchers and the wolves, caught in pictures that remind us how close the links are between wolves in the wild and the beloved family dog. Short chapters introduce the wolves as individuals, describe the Dutchers' years of coming to know them, and address the complex conservation issues surrounding the near-extinction and now replenishment of the species in the wild. Sidebars explore myths about wolves, including Native American spirit stories, European fairy tales, and modern ranching hearsay.


  • Hardcover
  • 192 pages; 120 color photographs, 150 illustrations
  • 10" x 7"
  • © 2013

Jim Dutcher is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer whose extraordinary camerawork has led audiences into places never before filmed: inside beaver lodges, down burrows to peek at wolf pups, and into the secret life of a mother mountain lion. His work includes the National Geographic special "A Rocky Mountain Beaver Pond," and ABC World of Discovery's two highest-rated films, Cougar: Ghost of the Rockies, and Wolf: Return of a Legend. Jamie Dutcher, Jim's wife and co-producer, has worked in the animal hospital of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., bringing her knowledge of animal husbandry and medical care to film and enabling her to quickly gain access to the sensitive and secret inner lives of wolves. The authors live in Idaho.


Drive north on Highway 75 into central Idaho, and you’ll soon find yourself winding up a steep mountain road toward Galena Pass. Beyond this threshold, the ground drops away into the Sawtooth Valley. The headwaters of the Salmon River trickle down these slopes and gather in the valley below. There, a few ranches nestle close to the river with their backs to the vast wilderness. Above it all, the craggy spine of the Sawtooth Mountains looms to the west. The Sawtooths shoot boldly out of the valley floor, soaring gray walls in a blazing blue sky. It’s a Wild West setting that rivals the more famous Grand Teton National Park.


Tucked away at the base of these mountains lies a bright riparian meadow. Tiny braided streams course though the grass, nourishing stands of willow and aspen before flowing into a lively mountain brook. Thick stands of spruce and lodgepole pine guard the perimeter, breaking just enough to reveal the Sawtooths in stunning backdrop. We had searched for the better part of a year for the perfect spot to create our wolf camp, facing a maddening list of criteria. It had to be far enough into the wilderness to avoid attracting attention or bothering the local residents, but it had to be accessible by four-wheel drive in the summer and snowmobile in the winter. It also had to be an area that the U.S. Forest Service would allow us to use. Above all, it had to be suitable wolf habitat with fresh water, a mix of cover and open space, and good places for denning. The moment we set foot in this meadow, we knew we’d found the spot. From the hushed beauty of a spruce forest blanketed in new snow, to the pastel spray of spring wildflowers, to the bold reds and golds of autumn, it was all that we as filmmakers could have hoped for.


More important, the land offered everything a pack of wolves would need. There were dense patches of forest and a maze of willows where they could seclude themselves and feel safe. There was a pond of spring water to drink from and to splash in. Fallen trees offered a choice of denning sites, and a grassy meadow provided a sunny nursery for raising pups. The wolves genuinely seemed to love being there.


Wolf camp was an ever-evolving project. After securing permits from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, we had to get permission from three local ranchers to cross their land. Wolf reintroduction was four years in the future, but it was already a contentious issue. During the autumn of 1990, we staked out 25 acres, creating the world’s largest wolf enclosure. Just outside the enclosure, we set up two sleeping tents and a round Mongolian-style yurt, which became a cook tent, a work- space, and the center of camp life.


Maintaining the camp and caring for the wolf pack was a seven-day-a-week job. The long Idaho winters were especially laborious. When three feet of snow piled up in a single day, we had to keep our tent roofs swept free, lest they collapse under the weight. We had to haul and chop a steady supply of firewood, especially for nights when temperatures dropped to 40° below zero. And we always made sure we had a clear path to the outhouse. Critically, we had to maintain contact with the local sheriff’s department. If a deer, elk, or antelope turned up dead on the highway, we had permission to collect it for wolf food.


A few seasons into the project, we made a simple alteration that proved revelatory. We built a platform eight feet off the ground inside the wolves’ territory, put the yurt on top, our sleeping tent on the ground beside it, and encircled it with chain-link fencing. Suddenly we were no longer entering and exiting the wolves’ space every day; we became a constant fixture within it. More than ever, the wolves just ignored us. By this time, the pack was a mature family of six males and two females, and they began to reveal their lives in rich detail. When we remember the Sawtooth Pack, we remember them most fondly from this time.


REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
The Hidden Life of Wolves
 
4.8

(based on 5 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (4)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Deeply informative (3)

Cons

    Best Uses

      Reviewed by 5 customers

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      Displaying reviews 1-5

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      4.0

      A very handsome book

      By Knightingale

      from Saskatchewan, Canada

      About Me Bookworm

      Verified Reviewer

      Pros

      • Deeply Informative
      • Easy To Understand

      Cons

      • Not What I Expected

      Best Uses

      • Gift
      • Older Readers
      • Reference

      Comments about The Hidden Life of Wolves:

      This is a very nicely put together book with some wonderful photos and artwork in it. I enjoyed very much reading about the personal experiences of the authors and the wolf project they worked on as well as the individual wolves in the project. I liked alot of the information. The one thing: given the title, "The Hidden Life of Wolves" I was expecting a little more of the personal, in depth talk about wolf behaviour and interaction. I found quite a bit of the writing was clouded with the bitter experiences of the authors instead. (Presumably because of their experiences in trying to help people become more understanding in their dealings with wolves.) It was an eye-opener for me. As a Canadian I know some people who don't particularly like wolves, but have never encountered the sort of rabid hatred described. I would have liked to have seen continued focus on the wolves themselves though.

      (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      Gorgeous photography, well written

      By Wolf Watcher

      from Bitterroot Valley, MT

      About Me Casual Reader

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Deeply Informative
      • Easy To Understand
      • Well Written

      Cons

      • Not What I Expected

      Best Uses

        Comments about The Hidden Life of Wolves:

        Great insight into the wolf pack and the way humans view wolves. The book is full of beautiful photos that show individual wolf personality and pack interaction. It comes with a backstory on where the wolf sits in our collective psyche and how we as humans have "managed" them. While the writers do well covering history, politics, and ecology; it's the personal wolf stories that really grabbed me.

        (2 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Beautiful book!

        By Just sum dood

        from Santa Fe, NM

        About Me Everyday Reader

        Verified Buyer

        Pros

        • Deeply Informative
        • Well Written

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Older Readers
          • Reference

          Comments about The Hidden Life of Wolves:

          I saw a video introducing this book and the work that went into it. I was captivated by the beauty! Although the book was very informative, the lack of pictures compared to some of what I saw in the video and what could have been included along side several of the stories in the book did not fully do it justice.

          (6 of 7 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          should be a sheep in wolves clothing

          By Nancy

          from Tallahassee,Fl.

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Dedication Beyond Belief
          • Educational
          • Magnificent Photographs

          Cons

          • none

          Best Uses

          • Education
          • Enjoyment

          Comments about The Hidden Life of Wolves:

          I have read this book over and over..photography is phenomenal..life of these gorgeous wolves and their families is beyond belief..kudos to Jim and Jamie for such selfless dedication..more people should donate to this wonderful program to educate people and help this species survive..

          (7 of 8 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Few Humans affect the animal kingdom

          By Indie

          from Idaho & Montana

          Verified Reviewer

          Comments about The Hidden Life of Wolves:

          True friends to the wolves, the Dutchers have proven that humans have the capability to make a positive difference .... even in the animal kingdom. Not only do I recommend the book, I recommend you delve deeper, to learn more about one of the most important animals in our eco system.

          Displaying reviews 1-5

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