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- O-Six, it turned out, wasn’t interested in another fight. As Rick looked on in wonder, she merely sniffed the visitor and allowed her to move on, following her to the east until she was sure that the den wasn’t her destination. The lone female wasn’t a harbinger of any coming Druid revenge, and O-Six seemed to know it. The truth was that there were no more Druids now, only a few scattered wolves without a pack or a home. Rick was grateful on behalf of the Druid female, but more than that, he was gratified to see the kind of leader O-Six had become. Good alphas, he felt, modeled wisdom and mercy, as 21 had done. Wolves who rose through the ranks merely because they were the largest or—like the cruel Druid alpha female known as 40—the most ruthless often failed to thrive once they got to the top, and their packs suffered commensurately. O-Six could be fierce, to be sure, but Rick was glad to see that she was no 40. Rick knew that in the field of wildlife biology, imputing human characteristics to a creature that it doesn’t really have—anthropomorphizing, as the habit is known—is considered a cardinal sin and a hallmark of amateurism. Doug Smith sometimes told people that his wolves weren’t Rick’s wolves, by which he meant that he was interested in science, not in stories. But wolves, Rick felt, were more like humans than they were given credit for, in their tribal ways and territoriality; in their tendency to mate for life; and in the way male wolves provided food and care for their offspring, so unusual in the animal world. He loved to quote the early-twentieth-century English philosopher Carveth Read: “Man, in character, is more like a wolf…than he is any other animal.” When human civilization was still built on hunting rather than agriculture, this notion was considered conventional wisdom. In Of Wolves and Men, Barry Lopez recounts the story of an ethnographer posing a riddle to an elder among the Nunamiut, a tribe in northern Alaska. At the end of his life, the researcher asked, who knows more about life in Alaska—how to escape a blizzard, how to find caribou, how to survive on such a harsh landscape—a wolf or a man? “The same,” the elder replied. “They know the same.”
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