The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature

The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature

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by David Baron
     
 

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The true tale of an edenic Rocky Mountain town and what transpired when a predatory species returned to its ancestral home.
When, in the late 1980s, residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their yards, it became clear that the cats had repopulated the land after decades of persecution. Here, in a riveting environmental fable that

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Overview

The true tale of an edenic Rocky Mountain town and what transpired when a predatory species returned to its ancestral home.
When, in the late 1980s, residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their yards, it became clear that the cats had repopulated the land after decades of persecution. Here, in a riveting environmental fable that recalls Peter Benchley's thriller Jaws, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles Boulder's effort to coexist with its new neighbors. A parable for our times, The Beast in the Garden is a scientific detective story and a real-life drama, a tragic tale of the struggle between two highly evolved predators: man and beast.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1991, in Idaho Springs, Colo., a small town not far from Boulder, a young jogger was killed and partially eaten by a mountain lion. Although people were horrified, biologist Michael Sanders and naturalist Jim Halfpenny were not surprised. Since 1988 they had been studying the mountain lions that were invading backyards in the Boulder area in increasing numbers and had concluded that, contrary to the accepted wisdom that these lions don't attack people, the big cats were indeed stalking humans in search of a good meal. In an engrossing book that reads like a true crime thriller, Baron, a science and environmental writer, follows the advance of mountain lions around Boulder as if they were serial killers, building tension as he leads up to the killing. There were plenty of warnings. Numerous homeowners saw lions in their yards, dogs were maimed or eaten and a girl was attacked but survived. Sanders and Halfpenny tried to convince the wildlife-loving Boulderites that a tragedy was about to occur, but people believed they could coexist peacefully with the lions, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife was also determined to leave the animals alone. Even after Scott Lancaster, the Idaho Springs jogger, was killed, area residents refused to endorse killing the big cats that moved into their neighborhoods. Baron is not in favor of killing unwanted lions, but in this timely book he warns that as people continue to displace wild animals from their habitats, they have to change the way they interact with them and be more realistic about romantic notions of wilderness. Illus. not seen by PW. Author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
By the late 1980s, the suburbs of Boulder, CO, had spread so far into previously undeveloped areas that residents began seeing mountain lions cross their backyards and cul-de-sacs. The lions pursued deer whose population had risen thanks to a live-and-let-live attitude by many homeowners. Soon the animals also learned that family dogs were an easy meal, but only after a woman was mauled and a teenager killed in lion attacks did the state of Colorado and the citizens of Boulder-who had disagreed for years on how to handle wildlife in residential areas-agree on the severity of the situation. In his engaging first book, Baron, a science correspondent for National Public Radio, describes the cougar sightings, habits, and encounters that surprised the town. While the historical asides and interviews with attack victims are interesting, it is the philosophical differences between longtime Boulder residents and urban transplants that make this a "modern parable." Appropriate for most public libraries, especially in communities where the urban is increasingly clashing with the wild. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/03.]-Alvin Hutchinson, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A thoughtful history from environmental reporter Baron elegantly forewarns of the mountain lion's return to human-populated landscapes. "Animal behavior is malleable, and a community of people . . . can exert a powerful, cumulative effect on wildlife," writes the author. This is especially so in the ecotone, the transition zone between land types, often biologically rich and often the site of uneasy mingling between creatures that are typically separate. There will be some strange edge effects as behavioral patterns adapt; and if one of the two creatures fails to sense a need to adapt, Baron cautions, the consequences may not be pretty: "A cat's prey preferences are not hard-wired." The for-instance here is Boulder, Colorado, where mountain lions are threading themselves into the expanding human environment. Dogs and humans, once thought to be relatively immune to mountain lion attack due to historical animosity, have become prey to a creature that was formerly timid in their presence. Boulder has long prided itself as living gently on the land, and the community's response to the lions, Baron predicts, will soon be replicated as the carnivore's range expands, with one side for, one side against the animals, and the middle ground left unmapped. It is a privilege to live among the cats, but humans are active agents within their environments, and the author suggests that a targeted approach to troublesome mountain lions may be in order. Following the thought-line of William Cronon (Changes in the Land, 1984, etc.), Baron writes, "if nature has grown artificial, then restoring wildness requires human intervention." Many will concur, though his point that "we must manage nature in order toleave it alone" takes a next step that lies open to discussion. Convincing argument that the return of the big carnivores will sharpen the debate over how humans situate themselves in the environment—at least, it certainly should. (3 illustrations, 2 maps, not seen) Agent: Todd Shuster/Zachary Shuster Harmsworth

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393058079
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
11/20/2003
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,152,764
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

David Baron, an award-winning journalist, reports on science for National Public Radio. He lives in Boston and Boulder.

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The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Baron did an excellent job of covering the psychology that prevailed in the area prior to the unfortunate death of Scott Lancaster. This psychology exists in many areas of the south west and was responsible for the death of Jeffry Reynolds in Orange County, CA, Jan, 2004 and the attack the next day of Anne Hjelle in the same area. For those interested in the cougar and human interaction issue this is a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in the midst of reading this excellent book on the recommendation of my husband who could barely put it down. Interspersed with historical information on the Front Range region and the plight of the mountain lion in the twentieth century, the book has a broad appeal. As a recent newcomer to Boulder County from the East, to me the illusive mountain lion is a novel predator. Signs at most of the trailheads in Boulder warn of the danger of mountain lions, yet not until I started reading The Beast in the Garden did I have a full appreciation for this amazing creature. David Baron weaves an excellent tale of what happens when man and nature collide. Foremost, he emphasizes that there is no easy solution to the complex dilemma of what to do when the wild invades your own backyard. What does humankind do when their own actions have created the threat? This is definitely a book that makes humans consider the ramifications of their actions and the ripple effect that these actions can have on the ecosystem. I'd highly recommend this book to almost any interested reader. Baron is an excellent narrator and one not to be missed if he comes to a book signing near you. He gives an interesting, educational speech and is very knowledgeable and personable. I plan to share this book as an ideal Christmas gift for friends and family!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Starting with a mysterious death, this book is a history lesson and a crime novel combined. If you are an outdoor person it will change the way you handle yourself in the outdoors. You may find yourself checking over your shoulder a bit more often. A very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Baron's book Beast in the Garden is an overblown, hysterical reaction to the simple fact that mountain lions live in the Rocky Mountains. Having lived in Boulder, Colorado since 1979 and having born witness to those times that Baron refers to (and the current ones) and also happening to be a mammalian ecologists with some understanding of natural populations, it is clear that Baron's approach is to scare people into reading his book rather than provide a rational discussion of the urban/wildlife corridor that many communities share in the West. Baron blathers on about how all the cougars are hell-bent on coming into town and eating our children. Because I work in the field at night, I have many wildlife encounters, usually alone or with one other person. Fourteen of these encounters have been with cougars, sometimes as close as 6 ft. They are curious for sure. If they had wanted to attack us in the dark, there was nothing stopping them before we were even aware of their presence. Ask Baron how many cougar encounters he has had. I think I know the answer.