The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World [NOOK Book]

Overview

The animal kingdom operates by ancient rules, and the deer in our woods and backyards can teach us many of them—but only if we take the time to notice.

In the fall of 2007 in southern New Hampshire, the acorn crop failed and the animals who depended on it faced starvation. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas began leaving food in small piles around her farmhouse. Soon she had over thirty deer coming to her fields, and her naturalist's eye was riveted. How did they know when to come, all...

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The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World

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Overview

The animal kingdom operates by ancient rules, and the deer in our woods and backyards can teach us many of them—but only if we take the time to notice.

In the fall of 2007 in southern New Hampshire, the acorn crop failed and the animals who depended on it faced starvation. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas began leaving food in small piles around her farmhouse. Soon she had over thirty deer coming to her fields, and her naturalist's eye was riveted. How did they know when to come, all together, and why did they sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete?

Throughout the next twelve months she observed the local deer families as they fought through a rough winter; bred fawns in the spring; fended off coyotes, a bobcat, a bear, and plenty of hunters; and made it to the next fall when the acorn crop was back to normal. As she hiked through her woods, spotting tree rubbings, deer beds, and deer yards, she discovered a vast hidden world. Deer families are run by their mothers. Local families arrange into a hierarchy. They adopt orphans; they occasionally reject a child; they use complex warnings to signal danger; they mark their territories; they master local microclimates to choose their beds; they send countless coded messages that we can read, if only we know what to look for.

Just as she did in her beloved books The Hidden Life of Dogs and Tribe of Tiger, Thomas describes a network of rules that have allowed earth's species to coexist for millions of years. Most of us have lost touch with these rules, yet they are a deep part of us, from our ancient evolutionary past. The Hidden Life of Deer is a narrative masterpiece and a naturalist's delight.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The root cause of this book was a New Hampshire acorn crop failure. In the Fall of 2007, deer, deprived of one of their principle food staples, were starving. Taking pity, author and naturalist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (The Hidden Life of Dogs) began leaving food around her farmhouse. Within days, a herd of deer was tiptoeing through her fields towards the piles of vittles. Being an avid nature watcher, Thomas paid close attention to their curious behavior. What could explain their synchronized arrivals; their alternating patterns of cooperation and competitiveness? Over the rough winter and the more gentle seasons that followed, she literally tracked these quiet visitors as they followed evolutionary rhythms that had been established over millions of years.
Robert Sullivan
[Thomas] has produced an elegantly written narrative about family groups she names the Alphas, Betas, Deltas and Taus. If you are a suburbanite looking for ways to stop deer from eating your tomatoes and bringing you Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, then this is not the book for you. If you don't view life and survival in terms of the Gaia principle, a few passages could leave you feeling like a you-know-what in the headlights. If you are interested in an insightful examination, for instance, of the deer's fascinating ability to hide itself—a fawn can drastically slow its heart rate, its body cleaned of smell and its excrement eaten by its mother, also in hiding—then Thomas will delight.
—The New York Times Book Review
Dwight Garner
In this slim and amiable book Ms. Thomas gathers a pile of small, not uninteresting observations about deer, and in doing so she subtly alters the way you look at them in a forest or from a window…Ms. Thomas's treacly side is nicely balanced…by the fact that she's ornery.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Thomas, author of the best-selling The Hidden Life of Dogs and The Tribe of Tiger, spent a year observing the lives of the deer near her New Hampshire home. Well known for her anthropomorphic writings and sometimes controversial and uncharacteristic methods of observation, Thomas doesn't deviate from these traits in her new installment. Scientifically minded readers will rightly balk at Thomas's methods of "scientific observation" as she actively feeds the deer in the course of her investigations into their "natural" behaviors. The last chapter strays from the topic of deer completely and seems a bit out of place. VERDICT Fans of Thomas's work will want this despite its flaws, and readers looking for an eclectic and sometimes eccentric natural history book with some inclusion of deer behavior may enjoy yet another Thomas romp in the woods. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/09.]—Kyrille Goldbeck, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. & State Univ. Lib., Blacksburg
New York Review of Books
“The Hidden Life of Deer is a glorious achievement, giving new meaning to what it is both to be human and to be alive on this planet of wonders.”
New York Times
“In this slim and amiable book Ms. Thomas gathers a pile of small, not uninteresting observations about deer, and in doing so she subtly alters the way you look at them in a forest or from a window.”
John Updike
Praise for CERTAIN POOR SHEPHERDS:“America’s foremost explainer of animal feelings and thoughts has woven fur and scent into the Christmas story, with amusing, moving results.”
Annie Dillard
Praise for REINDEER MOON“[The author] knows human feelings so well, in all their joy and bitterness. And her literary judgment is flawless. Her wisdom shines forth and, as always, her prose is strong and sure.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061902093
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,115,131
  • File size: 844 KB

Meet the Author

One of the most widely read American anthropologists, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has observed dogs, cats, and elephants during her half-century-long career. In the 1980s Thomas studied elephants alongside Katy Payne—the scientist who discovered elephants' communication via infrasound. In 1993 Thomas wrote The Hidden Life of Dogs, a groundbreaking work of animal psychology that spent nearly a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Her book on cats, Tribe of Tiger, was also an international bestseller. She lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on her family's former farm, where she observes deer, bobcats, bear, and many other species of wildlife.

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Table of Contents

Preface: A Note to Readers xi

The Year without Acorns 1

Cracking the Code 15

Deer Families 29

The Hazards of Feeding 57

Deer Seasons, Human Seasons 85

Fawns 119

Drivers, Hunters, and Their Prey 147

Our Place in the World 175

Epilogue 247

Notes 225

Acknowledgments 229

Index 231

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2010

    Very interesting read for those interested in nature.

    The author gives a well informed and researched look into the society of deer. As the hunting of deer declines and the population of deer explodes the sighting of deer in urban and suburban neighborhoods is on the rise. This book may help readers and town planners understand why deer do what they do and why they relocate at different times of the year.
    In our own town, 15 miles south of Boston, there have been 44 deer/vehicle accidents this year-the results are not pleasant for either party. This book is not the answer to that problem, but understanding why the deer do what they do is a start to the solution.

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  • Posted December 17, 2009

    PITCH PERFECT

    Liz Thomas has crafted a magnificent book from her practiced insight into the natural world. Read it in one sitting, then reread it. It is truly an experience to be savored.

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  • Posted December 2, 2009

    A compelling and easy to read reflection for those interested in our relationship and communication with animals, and not only deer!

    Many of us watch the habits of the animals around us, but may not establish a pattern of committment and research through observation that Elizabeth M. Thomas writes about in the book The Hidden Life of Deer. People particularly interested in the disconserting system our society chooses for hunting and animal management may find her book informative. Ms. Thomas's easy style allows us into her observations, and candid activity without providing all the answeres or even all of her personal conclusions, except to leave the reading wanting more. I found I was yearning for a deeper understanding of the way animals communicate with us. The communication between animals and humans is not a new idea, but it is still in an infancy stage. Ms. Thomas teaches us more.

    My reading just happened to coincide with hunting season, and each boom of a rifle continues to leave me sad because we hunt with such a violence. Native American brothers and sisters looked to nature as a sacred aspect of life, giving appropriate thanks to the Great Spirit for the gift of food and the animal that provids it. Our society usually looks only to the violence of the hunt and the size of the antlers--also the bonding of males with beer and guns. These are the remnants left on our roadsides and woods each year. A sad commentary on our society. Ms. Thomas gives glimmers of hope, however, because deer are smarter than we think they are!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 3 Customer Reviews

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