Book Recollection: The Wolf – Ghost Hunter

Well, last night ended up being one for the “Nearly Bit It” record book – which already has an eerie number of pages in it.  Remember that highly engineered bird feeder I made last year.. the one made out of PVC… ugh, here’s a refresher (link here).   Turns out there is a demon side to this contraption that didn’t occur to me until… well, LAST NIGHT when I almost lost an eye and somehow avoided a broken nose.   I’ll leave off the ghastly details, but I didn’t take into account how slippery the rain had made the crank system and didn’t bring the feeders (I was trying to fill) all the way down.  When I let go, the crank continued freely unwinding.  The interesting part of this was attached to the crank was a 1.5′ coated wire with a large metal latch hook on the end.  This mace like object was whipped directly into the bridge of my nose.  Now there are hits to the head and then there are WHITE LIGHT events.  This was of the latter and my third major one in my lifetime (martial arts, snowboarding and now -embarrassingly- a bird feeder).  Quite frankly I can’t believe it didn’t hit directly into my eye socket.  Half a centimeter and I’m celebrating Talk Like a Pirate day every day.

Speaking of eyes, how about those haunting eyes on the covers of today’s main topic?  Those are windows into a truly majestic animal.  I think this may be a record for me, three book recollections in the same month.  This recollection is about The Wolf: Ghost Hunter by Daniel Leboeuf with photography by Thomas Kitchin and Victoria Hurst.  To my surprise, this book was originally a French publication from 1995 that had an English translation published in 1996.  It is probably unfortunate that I had read Wolves (link here) earlier in the month.  As a result, the impression of this offering suffered some.  For starters, the front cover shot on this book is fantastic and the rest of Thomas and Victoria’s work was very good, but it was eclipsed by the photography of Monty Sloan in the other book.  I make that statement only in the comparative light seeing how all of them far exceed anything I have been able to produce on the wolf front.  The text seems to suffer some too and this is likely due to the translation process.  It just seemed to lack any depth and unlike Shaun’s work it really didn’t have a lot of new insights.  It did have some interesting European dates for wolf extinction and a tidbit on Jewish views on the wolf (so harsh, so very harsh).  If you are looking pick up a fairly quick read on wolves and enjoy some outstanding wildlife photography I’d have to recommend Shaun Ellis Wolves book over this one.  There were a few takeaways/confirmations from the book so feel free to hit the jump to see those.


  • References Of Wolves and Men which is coming up on my reading list
  • Last wolf in Scotland was killed in 1680 (Ireland 1770, South Dakota 1925, Eastern Montana 1927)
  • Europeans brought their prejudice to wolves with them when they came to America – no thanks there
  • Theodore Roosevelt demanded the extermination of wolves … what, did they scare his precious teddy bears?
  • Hey, wolves don’t attack humans.. whata ya know
  • Once again alludes to wolves liking water (in fact might swim for actual fun) seldom hesitating to follow prey into the water – not buying this guys
  • Image on page 36 of the wolf drinking water between the trees is very impressive
  • Wolves have 42 teeth (as expected, the same as their descendents the dog)
  • States that wolf jaws can exert more than 200lbs/sq inch
  • Their vision is the least developed sense – like my poodles, they have difficult discerning things that stay motionless
  • Pup mortality rate is about 75%.  Based on other references, this appears to be a high water mark – it may be dependent on the environment and not sure where their data point is
  • Pup eyes stay closes for 10 to 15 days after birth
  • Mentions that wolves will attack grizzlies if they endanger their dens (Alaskan wolves supposedly killed 3 of them in 1990)
  • 10% success rate for wolf hunts
  • They are susceptible to the same diseases as dogs – in fact pet dogs may have introduced Parvo to wild wolves
  • The largest recorded pack numbered is 36 (I believe the Druid Pack in Yellowstone may have grown somewhere close to that)
  • Confirming other references, prey that stand their ground generally survive their wolf encounter – clearly they are not stupid, why risk injury or death when there are surely sick, old or young prey to be had
  • As with the other Wolves book review this month, they mention their desire to roll in scents – although unlike the Wolves book they simply state they don’t know why.
  • Apparently they like to eat Canadian Geese – if that is the case, they would never go hungry around here
  • Wolfs actually strengthen herds by eliminating their sickly and weak – improving the gene pool for sure
  • Wolves avoid stomach content of their kills – guessing the acids don’t agree with them .. or maybe they just don’t like veggies
  • In Jewish mythology, wolves are impure and unfit for human consumption or sacrifices.  I am guessing the wolves are perfectly fine with that, I wish other nationalities had that same opinion
  • Wolves turn gray just like humans do as they age

5 thoughts on “Book Recollection: The Wolf – Ghost Hunter”

  1. Interesting. Mollie’s pack is definitely the big boys of the packs with some weighing in at 130 pounds thanks to their need to take down bison (per Decade of the Wolf post link here As mentioned this is likely due to intermingling – a Mollie cast off will definitely be a bonus to the smaller wolf packs (those that hunt elk) and once they master that they’ll start cranking out the bigger wolves as well. Should be an interesting study – thanks for the info


  2. So they “actually strengthen herds by eliminating their sickly and weak”? Sounds like you’re a partisan apologist. How about we strengthen _their_ “herds” a bit….




  3. Hey now, the wolves already have it hard enough overcoming extreme prejudice from humans, they don’t need anymore weeding – besides, the packs do fight (still unsure of the exact catalyst for that and the books I read tend to gloss over it – it could be alpha jealousy or turf wars during food struggles – just don’t know) which tends to leave a few down in the melee – so if it makes you feel better, we’ll assume the ones down were weak links with bad teeth. Heck – doesn’t the word herd in itself signal a need to thin where packs sound like just enough to take an overnight camping trip.

    … in parting… would we be as advanced a civilization with peace?


  4. To me, “packs of wolves” sounds like their just packed in like sardines, needing to be thinned to spread out a bit. Oh, and here’s another great point: it reminds me of going from two packs to one pack a day, which is always considered a good thing. I rest my case. Your last question is way too loaded for me to respond to…

    I still don’t know why wolves don’t attack humans who aren’t holding guns, though. I’m beginning to believe that our body odor evolved as a defensive weapon the likes of which no animal other than skunks have, and even skunks avoid us.



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