Book Review: The Rise of Wolf 8 by Rick McIntyre (3/5)

26 Oct

It had been a while since we’d done a nonfiction book for one of my book clubs so I was a bit excited when we selected one. I’ve never been a big fan of wolves and I don’t own dogs (I’m allergic) so I don’t think I was a target audience for this one. Nevertheless, I recognize that Rick is an expert like few others in his field and he was able to tell a compelling story.

Cover image via Amazon

The Rise of Wolf 8 by Rick McIntyre

Summary from Amazon:

Yellowstone National Park was once home to an abundance of wild wolves—but park rangers killed the last of their kind in the 1920s. Decades later, the rangers brought them back, with the first wolves arriving from Canada in 1995.

This is the incredible true story of one of those wolves.

Wolf 8 struggles at first—he is smaller than the other pups, and often bullied—but soon he bonds with an alpha female whose mate was shot. An unusually young alpha male, barely a teenager in human years, Wolf 8 rises to the occasion, hunting skillfully, and even defending his family from the wolf who killed his father. But soon he faces a new opponent: his adopted son, who mates with a violent alpha female. Can Wolf 8 protect his valley without harming his protégé?

I hadn’t heard of this project and when I started reading, was really excited to see how such an ambitious program would play out. Moving wild wolves to a new area and seeing if they’d survive sounded like a massive undertaking. McIntyre is the perfect person to tell this story because he was there from the beginning and his perspective of the project is unlike any other. The afterword of the book really highlights how much time he’s spent with the wolves and how unusual that is, even among wolf researchers. I really liked the expertise McIntyre brought to the book.

I don’t know why I was surprised by the variety of personalities the wolves had. Wolf 40 was so aggressive while 21 and 8 were so mild-mannered and able to avoid confrontation. I shouldn’t have been surprised, my turtles have distinct personalities and they’re way less complex than a wolf. McIntyre’s expertise and the amount of time he spent watching them made for some great descriptions and a lot of details about the personalities of each wolf and the pack politics that each fit into.

Despite the title, I felt the book focused more on Wolf 21 and I enjoyed his story. 21 was born in the park and we see him go from an orphaned pup to a strong Alpha. I liked his journey and how he interacted with 8 when they met at the end.

The wolf personalities were so distinct and McIntyre was able to get into their heads so well that they almost seemed like characters in a story, dealing with family drama and a fight with nature. I can’t say I related to the wolves, but I could see a lot of human traits in them that made the story read a lot more like fiction.

Rick McIntyre
Image via Amazon

I liked it when McIntyre would talk about the pups. It made me think of puppies and always brought a smile to my face. The ways they would play together were adorable and I liked how McIntyre described their games and the play bows they did. It had a lot of human and domesticated-dog feeling to it.

In spots, the book dragged on with a bit too much description. It’s clear McIntyre takes extensive field notes and on some occasions, it felt like he was just reading his field notes without too much thought given to a narrative plotline. This wasn’t often, however, and I would find that these stretches did end and wouldn’t come up again for a while. They stuck out to me a bit when they did.

The audiobook was narrated by Geoff Sugiyama and I thought he did a great job with the story. Because the wolves don’t talk, there wasn’t any voice acting that required different voices, but Geoff kept the story interesting. I’m not sure how he’d do with a fiction title, but he did great with this non-fiction piece.

How the wolves in Yellowstone thrived seemed like a testament to resilience in nature. It was great to hear that animals could be reintroduced to an environment where they’d been wiped out and that they could do well and create a community. It goes to show that if we make an effort to help nature, we can make an impact.

Writer’s Takeaway: McIntyre is an expert and he shows his dominant knowledge well in this book. You can see that he is knowledgeable and passionate in a way that few people are. His willingness to get up at unreasonable hours so that he can sit still for 19 hours and watch wolves without any financial compensation isn’t something you’ll find in many people. When someone with that level of expertise is able to share what they know, it’s fun to read and share their passion.

Overall, an important book and one that taught me a lot. However, I wasn’t the right audience for this one and that’s the only reason I didn’t enjoy it more. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Post: 
In Search of Wolves, Day 1 (Gunnison to Craig, Colorado) – March 05, 2020 | Rockey Mountain Hiker 

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2 Responses to “Book Review: The Rise of Wolf 8 by Rick McIntyre (3/5)”


  1. WWW Wednesday, 28-October-2020 | Taking On a World of Words - October 28, 2020

    […] finished: I finished The Rise of Wolf 8 by Rick McIntyre while I was cooking dinner one night. It felt so good to finish a book with my […]


  2. Challenge Update, October 2020 | Taking On a World of Words - November 2, 2020

    […] Ghost Bride // Yangsze Choo (3/5) [and Book Club Reflection] Lipstick Jihad // Azadeh Moaveni (3/5) The Rise of Wolf 8 // Rick McIntyre (3/5) Running with a Police Escort // Jill Grunenwald (4/5) The Millionaires // […]


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