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Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators Paperback – June 23, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916241
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this impassioned debut, wildlife journalist Stolzenburg examines predation's crucial role in the preservation of ecological diversity, painting nightmarish pictures of what happens when top carnivores are exterminated from ecosystems. Without sea otters to keep ravenous sea urchins in check, some ocean floors in the North Pacific have been stripped of kelp. In Yellowstone National Park, the eradication of wolves has resulted in a glut of elk that have trampled river banks and chewed down young trees. White-tailed deer have denuded the undergrowth in the forests of the eastern United States, because wolves and cougar have disappeared. Without large meat eaters, mid-size predators—raccoons, blue jays, crows, squirrels, opossums—have proliferated, to the detriment of songbird populations. In dazzling descriptions, Stolzenburg demonstrates how the delicate balance between predator and prey is so essential, and his book, rich in dramatic accounts of life and death in the wild, is powerful and compelling. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Absorbing and delightful…Not just an enriching story, but a new, clarifying lens through which to understand the world around us.”—Christian Science Monitor

“Stolzenburg’s infectious enthusiasm should spark even in bug-wary urbanites a renewed appreciation for nature’s complexity.”—Time

“A meticulous and convincing argument that alpha predators are the primary regulators of ecosystems, and that their removal is crippling our planet’s biodiversity.”—Bill McKibben, Boston Globe

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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I highly recommend you read this book if you care about the future of this planet.
Mitchell R. Alegre
This is an excellent book- well researched and superbly written it is accessible to the general reader as well as those in the field.
cleothecat
Mr. Stolzenburg describes research into the effects of large predators on ecosystems.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on July 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
These days, no one of good sense and alert conscience can fail to feel a deep and unprecedented anxiety over the fate of the planet. Climate change, pollution of the earth, air, and water, overpopulation, the end of nonrenewable energy sources: the environment seems to be pushed beyond its ability to recover. Even those public policies which at one time were thought to be innocently beneficial to humans have, in many cases, proven to be destructive of ecological stability.

One of them, as William Stolzenburg demonstrates in his excellent Where the Wild Things Were, is our centuries old declaration of war against predatory animals. In eliminating many of them, we thought we were improving the world. In fact, however, predators are "keystone species" whose existence holds up the "archway of life." Remove them, and the whole shebang comes down. A classic example of this, documented by Stolzenburg, is the rampant over-population of white tail deer in the U.S. and the devastating consequences to flora and fauna, that resulted from the near-eradication of wolves.

Even worse, essential predators can be eliminated unintentionally and unpredictably by interfering with the ecological balance. The killing of sea otters, for example, has allowed sea urchins (otter food) to flourish, which means that Pacific kelp (sea urchin food) is in grave danger of extinction, which in turn is creating havoc on kelp-eating whale populations. The complexity of the whole thing is exponentially increased when one stops to consider that all species are predatory--even those we'd never think of in such terms, such as starfish(to mussels)--and so everytime we deliberately or accidentally raise or lower species populations, we're risking grave upsets in the balance of the whole.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Stolzenburg describes research into the effects of large predators on ecosystems. The focus is on research that has taken place in the last 20 years or so, but I think that's just because that's when most of the research has been done. I understand that the author has biases, but he does an excellent job of communicating research findings in an objective, insightful manner.

Reading this book really jolted me out of my previous beliefs about predators, which was that, while they were great for a story, they didn't serve any irreplaceable role in the world. It also gave me a clearer understanding of some of the weaknesses with the Endangered Species Act. Now I'm even almost willing to quit complaining about the bear that wanders through our neighborhood every summer.

This book is well-written and easily understood by a layperson like me. In places, it is almost like a murder mystery. I found myself getting to the end of a chapter on otters and not being able to put the book down because I wanted to find out what happened to them next. Time passed quickly while I read this book. It actually kept me awake at night, which doesn't usually happen with a nonfiction book about nature. What a great book!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stacy Carroll on August 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sheer genius... I cannot sing enough positive praises about "Where the Wild Things Were"... Truly an education in ecology... William Stolzenburg does a thorough job of presenting diverse viewpoints... All of the topics were fascinating... The author's writing is moving, powerful, and provocative... I could go on and on with superlatives...

I am extremely excited to introduce family and friends to "Where the Wild Things Were"... My hope is that this book will receive the vast exposure it so richly deserves...
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Christen S. Mcginnes on August 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am an environmental idiot. I try to grasp the concepts behind global warming, extinction, habitat loss, and biodiversity and come up gasping for People Magazine. Will Stolzenburg is my oxygen mask. He writes in such a way that is gripping, visceral and imparts a deep and lasting knowledge of the issues we face in the biological world. I bought 20 copies of this book - it will be my Christmas present to everyone. I wish I could buy enough for the whole world. It's that good.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
William Stolzenburg's "Where the Wild Things Were" summarized the past sixty years of scientific discoveries concerning the importance of predators as keystone species--remove these vital carnivores from the "Web of Life" and entire ecological systems collapse.

In this book, Stolzenburg recounts the history of predatory biology as a series of riveting mystery stories. In his capable hands, the stories read like literature; they are thrilling and exciting. As I read each tale, I couldn't help but feel like I was a voyeur tagging onto the coattails of one brilliant scientist after another, each one passionately hell-bent on finding the scientific truth buried in a puzzle of conflicting evidence. Eventually, when the facts fell into place, I was filled with the thrill of discovery. I can't recall many books that have made me feel so intellectually stimulated and delighted!

I actually read this book twice. The first time, I borrowed the book from the local library and only spent a few hours browsing through the text, reading here and there, trying to pick up the sense of the whole. I had to return the book before I could read it in earnest, but that brief encounter did not impress me. Browsing the book did not unlock the magic in its pages. A few weeks later, my Advanced Readers Copy arrived and I took the time to settle down and give this book my full attention.

I soon discovered that this is not a book to browse. To enjoy this collection of scientific stories, readers have to read it cover to cover--they have to give themselves over to the work and let the author pace their reading. Readers have to allow themselves the time to let each story play itself out from beginning to end.
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