Predatory Bureaucracy:
The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West

494 pages, 32 historic photos, 3 maps

Released in November 2005 by the University Press of Colorado

To order this book, call 1-800-627-7377 or 405-325-2000 or go to

To schedule a book reading and signing event or an interview, contact Robinson at


Predatory Bureaucracy tells the epic story of the West’s wolves from conquistador days through 2005. It is also a remarkable exposé of how federal policy toward predators and other wildlife developed.

Author Michael Robinson describes the 1885 formation of an obscure federal biological research post, and how it shed its scientific roots and became a powerful agricultural service agency dedicated to exterminating wolves.

Once the wolves were largely wiped out, in order to maintain and grow its budget, the agency focused on killing coyotes, and once those were near extinction, it turned to exterminating the prairie dogs and other rodents that the coyotes would have eaten. Along the way, it eliminated grizzly bears, blackfooted ferrets and other animals from most of their ranges, despite claiming to protect them

Federal exterminators were opposed by bounty hunters and fur trappers who resented the elimination of their source of livelihood. Professional biologists also vigorously fought against extermination. The administrations of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter each successively sought to reform the killing service – all to no avail. It was President Nixon who managed to limit the scope of what an out-of-control federal agency could do – and the poisons and other tools it could use – through proposing and signing into law the Endangered Species Act.

Predatory Bureaucracy details how the Endangered Species Act was passed, how it led to reintroduction of wolves despite fierce opposition by ranchers, and how contemporary wolf management in New Mexico and Arizona has been hijacked by the same political forces behind the original extermination campaign.

Predatory Bureaucracy is infused with extraordinary detail about the canny wolves who long evaded their persecutors, about the people who did the killing, those who built the edifice of the extermination program, and the people who fought to save the wolves and other wildlife from extinction. This is a story that will change the way its readers look at the West.


      Early Praise for Predatory Bureaucracy:

“The root problem in the relationship between humans and Nature is our pathological drive to domesticate the land and to destroy those wild animals that do not accept our overlordship. Michael Robinson’s thorough history of our war against the wolf in the West is an insightful, eloquent, humble, and much needed study of that sickness. Predatory Bureaucracy is deep and wise.”
Dave Foreman, president of The Rewildling Institute.

“The wolf holds center stage in Michael Robinson's extraordinary book, Predatory Bureaucracy, but his subject is something even more troubling than the wolf's near extinction -- American attempts to tinker with the machinery of nature, and the unkillable government office that came up with one bright idea after another for controlling predators, while ignoring the role of predators in controlling "pests" and "varmints" like mice and gophers. In Robinson's hundred-year history of federal failure to decide what it wants we can see the great American schizophrenia writ plain -- love of wilderness, fear of the wild, with wolves trapped in the middle.”
– Thomas Powers, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1971, and author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (1979), and Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb (1993), among other works.

“In Predatory Bureaucracy Michael Robinson paints a vivid picture of the lives of some of the last wolves to roam in the West and of the men who planned and carried out their killings, and tells the remarkable story of passage of the Endangered Species Act and subsequent wolf reintroductions in the face of continuing fierce opposition. Through exhaustive review of thousands of personal letters, policy documents and other obscure records, Robinson chronicles the birth, growth, and cultural maturation of an agency whose primary mission is the extermination of “bad” animals at the behest of the agricultural industry—a case study of the dark side of biopolitics. He documents the Machiavellian tactics used by powerful individuals to federalize the “service” of killing predators and other “harmful” animals. Robinson tells this important story in a compulsively readable manner. Predatory Bureaucracy should be read by all who care about wildlife conservation, especially government biologists.”
– David R. Parsons – former Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.