the Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks
Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds
by Jim Sterba
This book is a different take on human/wildlife interactions. It first looks at the history of settlement in America- early colonists cleared the land and farmed, hunting wildlife extensively as predator control, crop protection or food supply. Nearing modern times, many kinds of wild animals had become so scarce they were rarely seen. Early conservationists instilled in people the desire to preserve pristine nature and help wild animal populations recover. When family farms began to be abandoned and the pattern of living changed across America, fields grew back into new forest- rather quickly. Later, sprawling suburbs supported a lot of new habitat- scattered trees, bushes, open edges- perfect for certain kinds of animals: deer, foxes, turkeys, possums, squirrels, raccoons, etc etc. These animals have proliferated so much they are now a problem in many areas, sparking conflict about how to manage them. The author looks at many ways in which animal control has been attempted- and how successful the various methods are. It appears that hunting and trapping is the most effective (and least wasteful) but that meets with a lot of protest by people who consider it cruel or don\’t want firearms used near where they live.
The book has a lot of facts- it was a slow read for me at first due to the amount of statistics and such, but got more interesting once it focused on certain animal species. There\’s chapters specifically about issues regarding beavers, deer, wild turkeys, bears and canada geese. There\’s a close look at rising vehicle traffic and mounting numbers of roadkill, whether feeding wild birds helps them or causes more problems, and feral cats. It has a lot of criticism for the system of capturing, sterilizing and re-releasing feral cats. Overall a lot to think about. Some of it I\’d heard before, a lot was new to me, or presented in a way that caused me to see the issue in a new light. I wasn\’t aware of a much about the beavers, for example. I felt like the author mostly gave an impartial look at both sides of the problems, but it\’s also clear what he thinks the best solution might be in many cases.
Older book on similar topic: Alligators, Raccoons and Other Survivors.
Rating: 3/5 343 pages, 2012