The writing of the book Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat was a result of the research that the naturalist was given to undertake to establish the real predator of the caribou animals that were very dominant in many regions of Canada. It is estimated that the population of the caribou animals in Canada was approximately three million in the year 1940. This number had drastically dropped to six hundred and seventy caribou animals in the year 1948. Due to this tremendous drop in the caribou population, the organization that was responsible, Dominion Wildlife Service (DWS), had considered the canis lupus or simply the wolf as the main predator that caused the massive drop in the population of the caribou animal species. Through this assumption, a good number of the canis lupus was killed in various national parks in Canada as a move to save the dwindling caribou animal species. It is estimated that approximately sixteen thousand wolfs were killed between 1952 and 1962. This killings were being instructed by the wildlife managers who claimed that the killings were not mere witch-hunt for wolfs but a move to save the caribou species. As result of these killings, Farley Mowat was instructed to go into the forest, research about the wolf and the caribou species and then write a comprehensive report on the best ways to save the caribou species.
Mowat carried out a ninety days research and wrote a report in a form of a book that he called Never Cry Wolf. In this book, Mowat wrote about his discoveries concerning the wolf animal species and why he thought that the wolves were being killed yet they are not responsible for the big drops in the numbers of the caribou animal species. He was in the forest studying the animals’ way of life and interviewing the ancient inhabitants of the region about the big losses in number of the caribou animals. The major reasons that convince Mowat that actually the wolves are not the biggest predators of the caribou animal species are critically elaborated in the next paragraphs.
Mowat studied the food cycle of the wolves and discovered that the wolves actually feed on the following animals arctic ox, the caribous, smaller mammals, and a variety of rodents. He also discovered that the wolves cannot develop very high speed but have a very good stamina. He then concluded that the animals actually rely on their stamina other than speed in getting hold of their prey. Out of all the indicated animals that the wolves can be fed on, the caribou species is the strongest and the fasted. In fact, the speed of the caribou is very fast that it gets almost impossible for a wolf to kill a caribou that is at a distant by giving it a chase. From this analysis and discovery, it is almost impossible for a wolf to choose to hunt for a caribou, which is very strong and very fast in running at a time when an alternative prey is available. It is recorded in the book that, "even choosing them over caribou when available" (Mowat 63). This is referring to the wolves that choose other species as prey even when the caribous are available. It is also recorded that the wolves only managed to kill sick and week caribou that could not run faster and had lost their strength. This weak caribous were few in the herd hence killing them could not drastically reduce the numbers of the caribou animal species.
During the study, Mowat also discovered that the wolf could comfortably kill a large prey by attacking it at the neck. This is because of the good strength and stamina that the animal has. This can only happen if the animal is found unaware of the attack or the animal is very slow in running. In his discovery, he also revealed that the caribou had very strong hind legs, which could cause a lot of injury when used to kick another animal. From this, he was able to make a conclusion explicitly indicating that the wolves are not responsible for the massive killings of the caribou. He explains that, since the caribous are faster than the wolves, it is not possible under normal circumstances for the wolves to attack them at the neck. The only possibility is that the wolves can attack the caribou from the hind. He, however, notes that the wolf will not be able to kill a caribou from the hind due to the great risks that the wolf will be exposed to being kicked and injured by the caribou. However, the wolves could kill the caribou if they jointly attack one of them from different directions. This then concludes that the massive killings are not caused by the preying of the wolves on the caribous.
One major and important discovery made by Mowat was that the wolves usually used to walk in groups. Due to this fact, the animals are able to feed and get satisfied with one or two big preys, for instance, the caribou. This then does not call for any importance of the animals to kill in surplus, as they will be majorly concerned with just getting satisfied. This then implies that even if the wolves are to kill the caribou, the rate of killing could be so small that it will not affect the overall population of the caribou animal species.
From this discoveries, it becomes clear to Mowat that the perception that the wolves are the major killers of the caribou species in false as these animals have minimal chances of killing the caribou and even if they are to kill, the rate of deaths of the caribous will not be able to threaten the total caribou population. In his further research, Mowat uses his native informant of the region, Ootek, who informs him of the various beliefs that the locals of that region have, “God provided the caribou for the sustenance of man” (Mowat 107). This is a clear indication that the people used to hunt and kill the caribou as a form of food. Ootek also says that, “God instructed the wolves to eat the weak, the sick, and the small caribou so that the land will be left with the big and fat ones” (Mowat 108). From this interview, Mowat clearly concluded that the major killings of the caribou species were because of the game hunting and the hunting for food by the local inhabitants of the regions where the animals were concentrated. On the other hand, people loathed wolves because of their look, "We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be -the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer - which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself’’(Mowat 134).
In terms of reception, the report published by Mowat received both positive and negative reactions from both the public, and critics. According to Barry Lopez, Mowat’s report was up to date, and it was useful in enlightening people on wolf’s behaviors. In another article authored by the historical review of Canada, Mowat’s work was a vital chapter regarding environment in Canada. The backlog of letters from the public urging the government to intervene and stop massive elimination of wolves shows love for animals. In other words, Canadians care about animals, and they were after defending animals that were almost becoming extinct owing to merciless killing. In 60s, the situation had changed after government intervention, and this was an indication that transition had found place in Canada. However, there was also negative reception because wildlife federation of Canada rejected Mowat’s report as being ‘semi-fictional’, and one that was based on falsehood.
In conclusion, Mowat indicates that the actual true enemy of the caribou species is humankind but not the wolf. This actually is accepted and the massive killings of the wolves were permanently stopped in Canada. In fact, it was wrong to kill wolves for consuming caribou species. The rules that govern nature are set in such a way that some animals have to be eaten by the others and this constitutes the food web. For that reason, humans should let nature do what it does the best.