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Author Nate Blakeslee On The Fight Over Wolves In The West

Shawn Quinn/National Park Service
A wolf sighting on the Denali Park Road (June 2010).

If you’re looking to spark a heated debate in the wide open spaces of Montana and Wyoming, bring up wolves. For author Nate Blakeslee’s new book, “American Wolf,” he spoke with scientists and researchers about wolves being reintroduced into Yellowstone Park as well as the rancher and hunter that killed the book’s protagonist, a wolf named “06.”

Blakeslee spoke with me about his book and you can listen to our conversation in the media player above.

On what drew him to the topic of wolves:

"Well, I've always loved that part of the country — Yellowstone in particular. I've spent a lot of great times up there, had a lot of great memories. But I first saw wolves in the wild was when I took a wolf-watching class in Yellowstone about 10 years ago and got introduced to that sort of subculture of wolf-watching that exists in the park. Met Rick McIntyre, the park's wolf guru, who would later sort of become one of the main characters in the story and sort of got to know... got to know what was possible through a spotting scope. How well it was possible to learn about the lives of wolves, how you could realize that individual wolves had  personalities, which sort of led me to the subject of the book."

On the famous wolf named "06":

"She was by far the most famous wolf in Yellowstone. Yellowstone is the one place in the world you can reliably spot wolves from the roadside. She wasn't the first one to become famous but she became famous during the period that Facebook was exploding and so she became sort of famous in a way no other wolf had before. So she had been seen by the roadside for a minute or two by thousands of people, but she was also watched much more closely by this small group of wolf aficionados. People that came to the park every day., watched wolves all day long and in one case, took notes."

On speaking with the hunter who killed "06":

"He was interesting. He had kept his name out of the papers for a year. But by the time I got to him he was ready to tell his story provided he was allowed to do so anonymously and we use a pseudonym in the book. He was interesting. He was not an anti-wolf ideologue. He very much resented the fact that there were fewer elk in that valley than there used to be. He was someone in his own way as obsessed with wildlife as the wolf watchers in the park are."

Blakeslee will discuss his book Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Louisville's main public library at 301 York Street.

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.