My new book, Shadow Landscape: Stories from the Field will soon be at the presses. In Shadow Landscape I relate personal stories of wildlife encounters, some intentional and other serendipitous. Below is a summary of each story for your reading pleasure.
Part I – One fall I had an unusual visitor at my home. A Pika Visits chronicles my month living with a pika at 6300 feet.
Two of the stories come from when I lived in the Bay Area: Gil and the Bees and The World of Fungi. As many might know, my background is in plants, but I also kept bees. Gil and the Bees relates many trials and errors of novice beekeeping, and the amazing affect going into a hive has on one’s consciousness.
The World of Fungi is a weekend adventure I spent with two avid and intense mushroomers who sold their collections to high-end restaurants in San Francisco. Mushrooming is a unique hobby and very competitive. The story takes place in Mendocino County on the coast.
In Dickinson Park I leave the reader to answer the question what animal it was I heard screaming through lonely forests in an area that had been off-limits to humans for over a year.
Wild Cats is a series of three personal stories about the cats which live in my ecosystem: cougars, lynx and bobcats.
During the final season of my dog Koda’s life (see Koda and the Wolves for his full story) I took him daily to a nearby hidden pond to swim. The remote area had a lot of wildlife. I kept a diary of the events.
In Part II, I tell stories that gave me insight into our current wildlife management institutions and my thoughts for future constructive change.
Wolves in the Crosshairs are two stories of wolf incidents. In the second, I ask the question: what is the objective of wildlife monitoring (other than concrete scientific studies with goals) and are we moving towards wildlife husbandry with so much technology.
For those who want to recreate in grizzly country, for those who want to escape urban life and move to grizzly occupied and corridor areas, I press in Grizzlies in a Windowless Room that the cautious advice isn’t to carry bear spray. The cautious advice is that we all must endeavor to preserve habitat and tolerance for the last of our grizzlies. The story feeds through a grizzly mom with three small cubs personal encounter into the arduous year that a grizzly hunt was almost enacted.
The year I learned that out of state hunters can raise dollars to pay a government agency to kill coyotes in specified areas in a state far from their own. Many of us are familiar with Wildlife Services killing coyotes for ranchers, but in this story they kill coyotes for hunters, where even the regional manager for Wildlife Services says it makes no sense and will have no affect. Coyote: The Fall Guy is about that resilient yet so persecuted animal that is the scapegoat for many of our troubles.
Bighorn’s Gordian Knot is the longest essay. In it I delve into the complex reasons why our native bighorn sheep are continually on the edge of die-off and why mountain lions are not the issue. That story in particular contains an example of how wildlife agencies can adapt, listen to a wide range of public opinion (not just hunters), and allow diverse working groups to drive effective policy.
The connection between all these tales is my own clumsy attempt to touch nature’s heart, to understand the ineffable, to reach beyond my grasp and dance the complex dance where nature is the invisible, and shadow, instructor.