Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species. A Book Review

Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered SpeciesWolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species by L. David Mech
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ★★★★

“Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species” is a “classic” wolf biology book from 1971.


The book systematically outlines key aspects of wild wolves and their environments: such as their ecological niche, pack structure and population dynamics, physical and mental characteristics, hunting, seasonal movement patterns, key species of prey, and their relations with prey and other stake holders… including humans (and much more).

Some unusual circumstances surround this book: The author says he has urged his publishers to stop republishing it, because some of the research in it is outmoded. He is particular unhappy about the book’s contribution to cementing “the myth about the alpha wolf” and the wolf pack as a dominance hierarchy. He explains the “alpha wolf” problem in this video:



The publishers, however, continue to reprint and sell the book. I guess I’m guilty too, because I bought it on the Internet. Keeping in mind that some of the research is outmoded and that the parts about pack structure are inaccurate, I still learned a lot about predator-prey interactions and ecology from it, so although I really wanted to give it a low rating for principal reasons, I just couldn’t make myself give it less than 4 stars.

I suggest to go ahead and read the book (perhaps borrow it in the library to avoid frustrating the author by keeping up the demand), and then also read Mech’s articles Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs (1999) and Whatever happened to the term Alpha Wolf? (2008), which explain wolf pack structure as it is now understood in an easy to read way. That should fix it!

All David Mech’s books about wolves can be found here.

View all my reviews

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