A Report on Farley Mowat’s book “Never Cry Wolf”

By Will N. Graves

May 2017

Many Western authors claim that Farley Mowats book, Never Cry Wolf,proves that wolves in northern areas do not live by preying on caribou, but live from eating lemmings and small animals. His book was highly successful. He sold about 14 million copies, and it was translated into 24 languages.

This book made a profound impression on what many people thought about wolves. One notable example was that his book convinced people in the Soviet Union that wolves in northern areas were not killing countless caribou; but, that the huge losses of caribou were due mostly to unprincipled human foreign trophy hunters. He wrote that wolves in northern areas lived by preying on lemmings, and not on caribou. He claimed that trophy hunters were the problem, and not wolves.

I worked in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1993 – 1995. Never Cry Wolfhad been translated into Russian and published there. Russians told me the title of a translated copy read, Please Wolves, Dont Cry.I searched for a copy and some Russians who worked at the Embassy also helped me search. Unfortunately, I did not find a copy of it.

In October 1995, a Doctor of Biology and Professor at the Petrosavodsk University in Karelia, made a personal 5-minute recording for me about Mr. Mowats book. He outlined for me the powerful impact, especially on young Russians, that this book had. This book changed their perception about wolves, and the public helped change official Soviet policy about wolves. One result was that the Soviet Government began to change its policy about wolves from an effort to exterminate (unichshchzhat) wolves, to an effort to control the population of wolves.

In my research, I learned that a high official of Soviet agriculture had a small paragraph, in very small print, placed in the first pages of the Russian translation of this book. I was told that the paragraph said that in northern regions of the USSR, wolves cause significant damage to caribou, contrary to what Mr. Mowat wrote. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of this.

For many years wolves killed about 20,000 caribou each year in the annual caribou migration in just one small area of Siberia. This was in the Putorana Plateau in Siberia, USSR.

In the Russian magazine Hunting and Game Management,in July 1982 M. Lavov reported on pages 20-21 that wolves cannot live on lemmings. In Tajmyr a large reduction in the number of wolves, resulted in a sharp increase in the number of caribou. After reducing the number of wolves, the number of caribou increased from 250,000 to 380,000.

The main source of food for wolves in northern areas is caribou. This has been confirmed by extensive Russian research. The most impressive evidence is on the negative role of wolves on the dynamics of the caribou populations that has been done in Tajmyr, USSR. There, a sharp decrease in the number of wolves resulted in a broad increase in the population of caribou. (Wolves in Russia, Detselig Press, Will Graves,, Alberta, Canada, 2007 page 106.)