Lessons from the Natural World
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
In a personal look at wildlife behavior, the author spent a year closely observing deer and other animals on her wooded New Hampshire property, telling us what she learned in The Hidden Life of Deer. It started when the fall acorn crop failed, and Thomas started putting out corn for the deer, watching from her window as they fed in her back field. She sorted out their family groups and social hierarchy, learned where they rested during the day, how they communicated, etc. As she didn\’t radio-collar the deer or follow them through the forest, a lot of her information was gathered slowly over time, or via secondhand signs. I was surprised at how much time (over two chapters it felt like) was spent debating whether she should even feed the deer, examining each reason the Fish and Game Department gives not to do so. Although Thomas loved the deer, lived tolerantly even with the mice in her house and hated seeing wildlife injured by careless hunters or vehicles on the road, she also tried to be practical about the fact that not all of them would survive, and minus their natural predators man has taken up the role of thinning their numbers. In one interesting chapter she describes taking a course on hunting and accompanying a friend on his annual deer hunt, in another she admits her error in trying to poison rats and then watching predators suffer in a chain-reaction. Not all of the book is about deer; there are also turkeys, bears, caterpillars and others. I liked reading her stories about animals, her thoughts on how all living things share the same basic needs: to be safe, acquire food, be with their families, though which similarities we can understand them by comparing them to ourselves.
Rating: 3/5 ……… 239 pages, 2009