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on April 19, 2018
This book has been a real find for me. Probably one of the most meaningful and interesting I’ve read in some time. Like the author I grew up in a relatively rural area and saw animals, both domestic and wild, in their more natural state. Now I live in an urban urban area in the northeastern United States. I am surrounded by coyotes, deer, skunk, geese, fox, and raccoons. A fisher cat walked across my back lawn last month and beavers are just making there presence known in a lake/park about a quarter mile down the street from my house. And in my opinion the greatest threat to our health and quality of life may be the proliferation of feral cats.

The author explains the backstory on the evolution of peoples relationship with the countries environment and wildlife over the last several hundred years in a sensible and engaging way. The recent history of disputes around the country about animal protection is explained with clarity and depth. The most ironic, and possibly arguable point the author makes for the countries current position on wild life is the Disney effect. I think he’s correct and I grew up immersed in that entertainment environment and lived to be rational in spite of the experience.

Some of the best stories within the stories have to do with how house cats became so common, why we feed birds and the real story about where the geese really came from that “graze” all over my neighborhood and on many lawns and parks. It had very little to do with nature taking its course and a lot to do with commerce, advertising and American entrepreneurial spirit.

The book is well written, informative and makes a strong argument for a more science based approach to allowing nature to balance the wildlife population with the human population as it is in the best interests of both parties.
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on June 24, 2013
I hesitate calling a book "important," especially one that probably will never be a major seller. This one, though fires an early salvo in a battle that promises to continue for years to come.

The immediate and limited purpose of this volume is to address the issue of emerging and ongoing conflicts between wild animals (both natural and feral) and humans in a contact of expanding woodlands and sprawling suburbia. As Sterba points out, these conflicts have expanded dramatically in the recent past and promise to continue in the foreseeable future as issues such as destruction of suburban landscapes and property damage resulting from road kill bring out legions of interested parties with both harmonious and conflicting proposed solutions. Sterba does a good job of discussing the pros and cons of some of these proposals, although the limited scope of this work precludes an encyclopedic treatment.

In a broader context, the author pushes his reader into a mindset that extends beyond the single-issue political solutions proposed by partisans in this issue into a new paradigm of management of such issues with an eye to husbanding society's limited resources. Sterba dismisses the proposals of feral cat fanciers, who favor spay/neuter-and-return policies, as being impractical in the context of the vast number of such animals. He also points out the destructive effects of such animals on wild bird populations, who possess their own political advocates. This discussion brings up the increasingly germane issue of how best to use governmental resources in an era of increasingly tight public budgets.

Sterba's book provides an easily accessible and largely objective discussion of this divisive issue, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in any of its ramifications.
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on February 2, 2014
Other reviewers focused on how nature is taking back what we wrenched from the ground, rebuilding the primeval forest that stood across America's east coast. I read instead of man's twisting the environment into an artificial mockery of nature, picking winners and losers. When man interferes he upsets a balance and tilts it one way or another. What we are doing is better than strip mining and wholesale slaughter of entire species; but it is not a return to an unreal make beleive ideal forest created by skewed nature films either.

Morally he raises a dilemma. Unless you are a vegetarian is there anything ethically better about raising animals in captivity (farm) and then killing them dead in the prime of life versus letting them live free according to their nature and harvesting them (hunting). I do not hunt; but I have never had a moral outrage with people who do.

Man has removed the checks and balances that kept some species under control. Removing the predators, or introducing an invasive species can result in unforeseen consequences. Coyotes and deer now thrive in the environment we created. But society would never allow reintroducing the controls of mountain lions and wolves back in to diminish their over breeding and destruction. Saving wild horses ignores that they do not naturally belong on this continent. Feeding deer so you can hunt them probably makes more sense than feeding them so they can over breed and die. But feeding wild life upsets the balance and they cease to be truly wild. Zoos have their place; but they are not natural.

He doesn't say it but extrapolating from this book raises some additional questions. How far do we go to protect nature from itself? If a species is so limited in versatility that it can not survive the stress of change should we really be stopping change? Do we bring back the dinosaurs? Or perhaps further back to single cell organisms only? Some who worship nature, do not truly understand what a harsh mistress she is, as we have become separated from reality. Only recently have people begun to accept forest fires as a required natural part of a forest. But even now we will not accept fires near human habitation. When we try to "help" nature we often just pick winners and losers, not back to a fairy tale pristine nature that never really existed. We need to revisit our own natural roots as predators and recognize that saving every single individual wild creature is unrealistic.

Everyone who loves "nature" should read this book, preferably with an open mind..
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on February 22, 2013
I found the information interesting. He concentrated on trees, deer, turkeys, Canada geese, and the like, all in the eastern United States. It would have been nice to see more species discussed (perhaps in not as much detail), like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, o'possums, and others. Also, only a limited discussion of the mid-West, plains, or Rockies, and essentially nothing about the Pacific coast or Alaska and Hawaii. I am sure that the author annoyed both the animal rights groups and the animal control groups, with perhaps more annoyance to the former. It would be interesting to read a brief rebuttal from each group to see where they think he misrepresented.
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on August 25, 2015
You have to read it. A nicely balanced and tasteful examination of the oft conflicting values of those who have wanted to exploit wild animals for profit versus those who have warm and cuddly feelings toward their furry and feathered friends. And for those with a philosophical bent, a great commentary on where our civilization? stands today. Sterba, for what it's worth, is an outdoorsman, writes for the WSJ, and is married to the wondrous Francis Fitzgerald (of Fire in the Lake Fame).
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on December 23, 2015
I bought and read this book for a class I was in, and I absolutely love it! Mr. Sterba presents the information in an entertaining way showing the conservation triumphs and struggles for several animals. Deer, Canada Geese, Beaver, Sterba has an example and plenty of eye opening information about conversation and the misconceptions that we currently carry about what that means for us and for the animals.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who would like a critical look at conservation efforts in America, especially certain species which have become the center of such ferocious debate.
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on July 7, 2014
Although I live in a Los Angeles suburb, and my house is just 6 miles or so as the crow flies, I've got mountain lions and coyotes on the hillside above my house. (I live in the brush line of the Verdugo Mountains. Across the street and down the hill is a perfectly normal suburban neighborhood. Across my back fence, the brush starts up the hill.)

Sterba has facts and figures and makes his case about the spread of wild critters today. )
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on April 22, 2015
Those who believe that they love animals must read this book. Regrettably, all too often "loving" animals is a matter of loving them to death. We live in rural south central Colorado and see plenty of illegal feeding of wildlife. This not only doesn't help wildlife, but it often results in the death of the very animals some claim to love. The recovery of species like turkey, deer, wolves and pronghorn is a testament to the professionals that do the right thing despite tears and jeers from the ill informed public. I plan to read it again.
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on June 18, 2013
I own 78 acres of pine forest. Third generation on the property. My grandfather worked in a local foundry fired by charcoal. He made charcoal in the slow season of the foundry from forest he owned. My dad remembered when there were large tracts almost bare. The foundry closed in 1909. Recovery was rapid. We did forestry called weeding and releasing in the late 1950's. This involved removing hardwood trees to allow white pines to thrive. Some acres were advanced enough for timber harvest. Our releasing work then has allowed me to have several pine timber harvests on these tracts since bringing in supplementary income and still leaving plenty of pines for harvest in the future.Generally, we can do a selective cur about every15 years on a plot. Our worst problem has been hurricanes. 1938, 1944 and 1960 were bad. Many trees uprooted. We have had a recent "no-name" storm with hurricane force winds which caused young, fast growing pines to snap off about 15-20' up destroying a fair percentage for harvest. We do get firewood from these but there is limited market for the fast burning softwood.
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on September 2, 2016
Packed with well-researched information regarding by the history of human-animal relations in America. Sterba is a journalist and this reads like a long journalistic article-in a good way. It's not dry.
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