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Author traces woes of wildlife revival

Reviewed Becky Krystal
Book facts
Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds

by Jim Sterba


343 pages, $26

It’s inevitable, and understandable, that today’s technology-driven culture has led us to a nostalgia for simpler times. Problem is, the good old days weren’t so good, for animals anyway, as Jim Sterba explains in “Nature Wars.”

In the United States, man drove many species to the brink of extinction. Now those animals have made a remarkable comeback in our suburban and exurban sprawls. Sterba portrays the resulting conflicts not only between people and animals but also between hunters and activists, government officials and residents and any number of other factions.

Lake Makefield Township, Pa., was one such battlefield. Sterba recounts an eight-year saga involving whitetail deer. The board of supervisors hired a consultant who recommended using sharpshooters to reduce the population, but the state game commission refused to allow the shooters to have at it until recreational bow hunters had taken aim. Animal lovers protested, and a security guard was hired to keep watch during the bow hunt. The sharpshooters came next, but pressure had caused the board of supervisors to reduce the number of shooting sites, and in the end only 123 deer were killed, far fewer than the expected 300.

Sterba is careful not to take sides. What he does seem to advocate is for all parties to re-examine their own firmly held beliefs concerning nature, because living among wild, unpredictable animals is not as straightforward as a game of Duck Hunt.

Becky Krystal wrote this review for Washington Post Book World.

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