- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (July 8, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596912995
- ISBN-13: 978-1596912991
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 58 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators Hardcover – July 8, 2008
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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)
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“Stolzenburg narrates these cautionary tales with a conservationist's attention to ecological detail and a childlike reverence for flesh-tearing beasts. His infection enthusiasm should spark even in bug-wary urbanites a renewed appreciation for nature's complexity.” ―TIME magazine
“This is a masterpiece, and its subject is extremely important and timely. I hope that Where the Wild Things Were receives the attention (and the accolades) it deserves.” ―Mark Garland, BirdCapeMay.org
“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.” ―Publishers Weekly, Starred review
“A passionately rendered update on our faltering environmental stability.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“With a lucid and sparkling voice, William Stolzenburg offers a revealing and well-documented account that explains clearly why we need the wolf, tiger, and other predators, large and small, to maintain a healthy environment.” ―George B. Schaller, Vice President of Science and Exploration, Wildlife Conservation Society; author of the National Book Award–winning The Serengeti Lion; and winner of the National Geographic Lifetime Achievement Award and the World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal
“Where the Wild Things Were is science writing at its best. The subject is important for biology and sustainable development, the prose is excellent, turning lyrical at just the right times, and the story of the research is woven with clarity into natural history. Big, fierce animals have a noble champion in William Stolzenburg. ” ―Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
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Then why only 3 stars. Twenty-five percent of this book discusses "rewilding" of the American West by the creation of enormous fenced parks and populated with top predators ... pumas, wolves, ? African lions, etc ... along with hoofed prey. Are these people out of their minds? Have they not noticed almost every red-neck pickup populating these areas invariably has a rifle suspended in the gun rack inside the cab + empty beer cans rattling about the floor and in the bed of the pickup? Why waste ~ 100 pages on such outrageous proposals -- most of us would prefer a broader discussion RE ecological consequences of dollar worship.
We all love to hear about big cool animals (charismatic megafauna, as they called them in Anthro classes, and as Stolzenburg calls them once or twice too), but usually we feel it's just as well we don't live among them. However, how deeply have we looked into the consequences of the absence of those big animals? Stolzenburg takes us deep into those consequences, in convincing scientific detail and fairness, and the results are rather horrifying. You come away realizing that, compared to the natural wonderland that used to flourish on the planet just a few thousand years ago, we now already live in a sci-fi dystopia.
But it isn't a depressing read! He doesn't want it to be, and rounds up several shining examples of current trend-reversing progress that made me want to cheer out loud. The wolves returning to Yellowstone and the ensuing improvement of the landscape is the most famous example, and is wondrously cool--go Google it if you don't know about it. But our forests probably need a lot more "rewilding" than just a pack of wolves here and there in a national park. I'm convinced of it now, and I hope this book goes crazily popular and convinces millions more people too.
I could go on and on about it, but I'd end up with a multi-page book report summarizing everything Stolzenburg says. And since he writes so gorgeously, you might as well just read his book--seriously, the writing itself kept charming and impressing me. It gracefully shifts from lyrical to colloquial and back again, lively throughout, a delight to read.
A few days ago, in the midst of reading this book, I took one of my kids to the zoo, and ended up lingering several extra minutes at the compound where four gorgeous gray wolves trotted and lounged. I'm glad they're here where we can visit them, but now I hope, more than ever, that many more of them can run free in our mountains.