Photographer and writer Tom Walker, the author of over a dozen books centered on Alaska, signs copies of his latest book “The Wanderer: An Alaska Wolf’s Final Journey,” at Title Wave in Anchorage. Photo by Margaret Bauman

“The presence of a wolf adds immeasurable richness and a wilderness spirit to the landscape,” noted Adolf “Ade” Murie, who came to Alaska in 1921 to assist in a National Park Service effort to capture caribou. “One need not see a wolf to benefit from his presence … It is enough to know that the wolf makes his home in this beautiful wilderness.”

Murie, the half-brother of famed naturalist and wildlife biologist Olaus Murie, is one of many folks introduced by award-winner Alaska author Tom Walker in “The Wanderer: An Alaska Wolf’s Final Journey,” published this spring by Mountaineers Books in Seattle.

In this wilderness, largely devoid of human footprint, Walker tracks the wandering of 2-year-old Wolf 258 — who traveled an estimated 2,960 miles in less than six months — his journey recorded on a GPS collar placed there in early November 2010 by biologist John Burch, who was tracking wolves in the Yukon-Charlie Rivers National Preserve.

The young gray-and-white males, a disperser from the Seventymile River Pack, had been traveling with a collared female, Wolf 227, that Burch knew well — a lone surviving member of the Edwards River Pack. They reunited about 15 miles downstream on the Charlie River as the weather turned cold and gloomy, wrote Walker. On Christmas Eve the pair killed a moose as the temperature dropped to 18 degrees below zero, and spent the next two weeks gorging on as much as 22 pounds of meat per day, and then they traveled on to the ridges above Seventymile River, an area with a long history of mining and trapping.

At some point in February of 2011 Wolf 258 lost his partner and set out on his own, apparently searching for his partner.

“His next move,” wrote Walker, “would ultimately determine the course of his life.” 


And so, this adventure of the Wanderer continues, with Walker weaving into his travels his knowledge of his own wanderings in this wilderness area. Walker also adds details gathered from the GPS collar and information compiled by friends like Kristine Fister, who had served as acting superintendent of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, and over a dozen biologists, veterinarians, and others.

What with all the research and interviews involved, Walker said it took him six years to write the book. But his writing style and the detail he adds into each chapter are filled with every step the Wanderer takes — the cold, the landscape — the Wanderer’s hunger pangs and the satisfaction when he has captured enough prey to sustain his energy.

Walker also weaves seamlessly into the story of the Wanderer’s travels, the history, and much geological information on the path that the Wanderer travels with great detail on the dangers the Wanderer faces from other wildlife and potential sources of sustenance.

Walker devotes a whole chapter to state-sponsored predator control and the very political controversy over aerial killing of wolves, noting those passionately engaged on both sides.

“Opponents respond to the argument that wolves will ‘wipe out’ the game by asking how that could be possible if all of these animal populations have evolved together for millennia,” Walker wrote. “Proponents, on the other hand, are usually hunters unduly influenced by the stories they read in hunting books and magazines, many of which are driven by politics instead of sound science. Facts mean little, clearly, what we think we know about wolves is a product of our emotions, biases, and attitudes,” he wrote.

The overall style of Walker’s writing is an invitation to travel along virtually with the peripatetic lone wolf through the heart of Alaska’s wilderness, an adventure not to be missed.