- Series: The Lamar Series in Western History
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (November 15, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300119720
- ISBN-13: 978-0300119725
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,283,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Vicious: Wolves and Men in America (The Lamar Series in Western History)
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The sad history of the near-extermination of the wolf in North America and the later protection and reintroduction of this same alpha predator are examined in this new synthesis of history, biology, and folklore. Coleman, a historian, was attracted to the topic because the history of the colonization of North America is peppered with references to the wolf. No animal prompted as much discussion, with mention of wolves appearing in town records, local histories, legislative journals, and personal correspondence. European settlers brought their wolf lore and prejudices with them from the old country, and from this creation of the wolf as a malevolent creature came 300 years of persecution. The gradual shift in how the American public saw wolves fills a fascinating chapter, when the glamorizing of "outlaw" wolves as a ploy to further the employment of professional wolf hunters actually led to the admiration of those "outlaws" by the reading public. This heavily footnoted and concept-heavy book reveals the doctoral dissertation it grew out of, but Coleman's writing is never dry or pedantic. Nancy Bent
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"A fascinating book which draws on historical, biological and cultural insights in a penetrating analysis of how Americans have interacted with a major predator. Coleman's approach allows us to understand fully why we eliminated wolves from the United States, and why recent debates over wolf reintroduction have been so heated."--Robert Keiter, author of "Keeping Faith with Nature and The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (also Wallace Stegner Professor of Law and director of the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment at the University of Utah)
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Top Customer Reviews
Jon Coleman's Vicious is like a Jackson Pollock painting. With its splashes all over it has appeal to some, but not to others. It was a book I wanted to like, but was ultimately disappointed. I initially almost put the book down due to violence toward wolves by man as rendered in his first story. Coleman does make the valuable connection, that while a wolf may seem vicious, living/killing with its teeth, the true vicious species on Earth is none other than us humans, to ourselves and to the other species with which we share the planet. Our history is testament to this viciousness.
Coleman tries to do too much, and as a result, accomplishes too little. He begins well with the communication difficulties between the early Euro-Americans and the indigenous people with whom they encountered. As conflict arose, verbal communication was more like that of animals, with shrieking and hollering. But, then the book drifts into ethology, paleontology, and genetics among others without yielding any new or pertinent information. In fact, he ventures out on very thin limbs with some of his destinations such as his suggestion that at times two different species mate and hit the procreational jackpot. Perhaps on the subspecies level yes, but not on the species level as chromosome number and gene sequences must align.
Coleman's Vicious, with a publication date of 2004, predates the killing by wolves of Kenton Carnegie, and Candace Bernier. Some slack may be given him in respect to those two individuals when he writes that in that there are no credible sources in regard to wolves killing people in North America. However, as a historian, why did he not at least refute some of the "non-credible sources?
Coleman spends a great deal of time on the Mormons, and how they were persecuted. In a sense, this is a metaphorical story within a story to man's viciousness and his persecution of wolves. Ironically, the Mormons themselves grew quite proficient at killing wolves.
Jon Coleman's Vicious is a flawed book. The material has been covered before, in both greater detail and organization. I found some of his deductions about wolf behavior questionable. And a mistake he made in regard to the color of the Yellowstone wolf killed by McKittrick as being black, rather than the predominately silver color of that wolf, calls into question, as simple as this fact is (or insignificant) were other mistakes made in Coleman's Vicious? As so much extermination history about wolves, and mankind's creative ways for inflicting suffering has been published over the years, why not try a different tact. Whether one decides to accept the hunting and trapping of wolves as a game animal, or not, is beside the point. Man's creativity for viciousness toward all species is with us still, and Coleman's Vicious fails to expose new ground.
Particularly interesting are the passages on the Mormons and their eradication of the wolves of Utah, which I think backfired in an interesting way, the very tall tales associated with wolves, the turning point toward environmentalism brought about Leopold, and the governmental eradication program in effect until 1950. It's quite interesting to see how the government "propaganda program" drove the eradication effort.
The author makes an interesting remark that there is no record in North America that wolves have ever killed a human. It's probably true, but worth looking into. I've heard this remark before. Perhaps a little Google work, or maybe something is in his bibliography.
There was an interesting section on communications between the Algonquin indians and Europeans settlers that hinged on interaction with wolves, dogs, and other animals. I recently had seen the movie "New World", 2005/6 release, which depicted this communication in a similar way. Perhaps the author had some influence.