When Bob Hayes was in grade school, he was nearly accused of plagiarism for his story “The Flickering Flame.” The author Hayes emulated? Jack London.
Readers of Hayes’ first book, Wolves of the Yukon, will spot the influence of Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton. And like Alaska author James Michener, Wolves starts at the height of the Pleistocene and ends on the brink of the wolf’s modern future.
London is most prominent in the short works of creative non-fiction Hayes writes at the beginning of each chapter. The suspense of a wolf stalking prey evokes London’s Call of the Wild.
The prehistoric adventure of two youth on their first denning expedition recalls Before Adam, and a day in the life of a 1950s game warden dredges up Tales of the Fish Patrol.
Chapter 5, “Primordial Beast,” is a rare literary analysis of the impact of London and Service on the overall social and political history of wolves.
Hayes credits the two writers with defining “why we think this is a wild place and why that’s important to us. Because of them, we, Yukon Tourism, sell complete wilderness.”
It’s Yukon wilderness that Hayes sought when he came north in 1975 with “no job, nothing.” He stumbled into becoming the Yukon’s first wolf biologist and determined that, if control was his responsibility, he’d gather solid data about the effects.
By the time Hayes retired in 2000, Yukon wolves were the most studied on earth, putting the Territory on the leading edge of wolf science.
The science led to “Understanding,” which the second part of Wolves. It’s also where Berton’s “popular” writing style is apparent.
“I didn’t want a dry reference book,” Hayes says, although the base material was a scientific paper he wrote in 2003 about his findings with the Yukon Game Branch. “I wanted a lively interesting account. Something the reader could interact with.
Unlike Berton though, Hayes continues the interaction on his blog atwww.wolvesoftheyukon.com, where he encourages comment.
Wolves may be on the vanguard of a trend as retired environmental managers in all disciplines put pen to paper creating a canon of knowledge about wildlife management in the late 20th century, including environmental science, the rise of renewable resource councils, and traditional knowledge.
An earlier example of this, and excellent companion book, is Robert G. McCandless’ Yukon Wildlife: A Social History, which dissected the fur industry up to the 1980s.
Hayes research gives his conclusions authority, “based on knowledge, not emotion,” he says. “The purpose wasn’t to influence policy. It’s for people to get something out of the biology and form an opinion of their own.”
After ten years of writing and researching, Hayes kept control over the content, illustrations and layout of his book through self-publication.
Wolves of the Yukon is on sale at Mac’s Fireweed Books, Well-Read Books, the Chocolate Claim, Kanoe People, Up North Adventures, and the airport gift shop.
Madley’s General Store in Haines Junction, Talbot Arms in Destruction Bay and Maximillian’s in Dawson City carry it in the communities. And a German edition of Wolves is in production, which will allow the conversation to continue internationally.