Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators

Overview

"As illuminating as it is shocking, Where the Wild Things Were offers a provocative now look at the world's top predators, and the cascades of unforeseen consequences triggered by their disappearance. It visits as well their few tenuous recoveries, lighting some of conservation's brightest beacons of hope." In the end this is a story of life ironically enriched by the jaws of death. For anyone who has seldom given thought to the great predators so rapidly fading from the web of life, here is a world of reason to think again.
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Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators

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Overview

"As illuminating as it is shocking, Where the Wild Things Were offers a provocative now look at the world's top predators, and the cascades of unforeseen consequences triggered by their disappearance. It visits as well their few tenuous recoveries, lighting some of conservation's brightest beacons of hope." In the end this is a story of life ironically enriched by the jaws of death. For anyone who has seldom given thought to the great predators so rapidly fading from the web of life, here is a world of reason to think again.
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Editorial Reviews

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Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Where the Wild Things Were is a challenging and provocative study of the importance of predation. Successful ecosystems -- which ultimately support humanity -- require top predators, so-called nuisance animals like gray wolves, jaguars, pumas, and sharks. Contrary to the lore that surrounds such animals, they're not indiscriminate killers. That title rightly belongs to Homo sapiens, the sole creatures with the ability and determination to put immediate gratification above the long-term health of our environment. Our own instincts, it seems, are borne primarily of cowardice and greed: when an animal scares us, competes with our interests, or boasts a soft pelt or ivory tusks, we shoot, poison, trap, electrocute, or simply squeeze it out of existence.

Stolzenburg recounts many carefully researched examples of predator eradication and its disastrous aftermath, including the eventual extinction of everything from the smaller prey species to trees. In every case, the unintended consequences are nearly impossible to predict, but will most certainly wreak ecological havoc on animal and plant life alike.

This is a humbling book because in its vivid descriptions of wild kingdoms past we see what might have been the natural world of today. Yet it is also a hopeful book because it may still be possible to turn the tide against the mass extinctions we've set in motion, and begin to heal the planet. (Fall 2008 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

As the title implies, this work is an examination of a world without the top predators of an ecological niche. Exploring the history of predation from the first microscopic predator through the age of the dinosaurs to today's modern mammals, science writer Stolzenburg, who has studied predator-control techniques and monitored endangered species, reveals the devastating ecological consequences that result (e.g., marauding deer and raccoons in suburban backyards, huge herds of elk in Yellowstone Park) once a top predator is removed from its position. Throughout, Stolzenburg follows the studies of several ecologists looking at the food chain from the top down and furnishes hard-core evidence that an ecosystem is more diverse with the top predator acting as a checks-and-balances measure to provide multiple-prey species with the chance to survive. A comprehensive bibliography offers both professional and amateur ecologists, naturalists, and biologists further readings to learn more about predator-prey interactions. The easy-to-read and captivating prose will introduce readers to species of animals they've never heard of before, as well as give a greater awareness and appreciation for the complexity of the world in which we live. Highly recommended for all libraries.
—Kyrille Goldbeck

From the Publisher
“Absorbing and delightful…Not just an enriching story, but a new, clarifying lens through which to understand the world around us.”—Christian Science Monitor

“Stolzenburg’s infectious enthusiasm should spark even in bug-wary urbanites a renewed appreciation for nature’s complexity.”—Time

“A meticulous and convincing argument that alpha predators are the primary regulators of ecosystems, and that their removal is crippling our planet’s biodiversity.”—Bill McKibben, Boston Globe

Library Journal - BookSmack!
Readers who appreciate Vaillant's exploration of the impact of poaching on the tiger population should equally appreciate Stolzenburg's deftly written exploration of the role of top predators in maintaining ecological diversity. The author, a wildlife journalist, clearly and engagingly explains what happens when an ecosystem's top predator is wiped out. A chain of cause and effect unfurls as a kind of animal deregulation takes hold. The extermination of wolves, for example, means elk have free reign, which means forests fail as young trees are consumed in numbers too high to be sustainable. Vaillant fans will embrace Stolzenburg's fine science writing and ecological message. . Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads," Booksmack! 10/7/10
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596912991
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 7/8/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,003,789
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

William Stolzenburg has studied predator control techniques, monitored endangered species, and written hundreds of magazine features and columns on the science of rarity and extinction for Nature Conservancy and Science News, among other publications. He lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Grizzly in the Room 1

1 Arms of the Starfish 6

2 Planet Predator 27

3 Forest of the Sea Otter 51

4 The Whale Killer 64

5 Ecological Meltdown 84

6 Bambi's Revenge 100

7 Little Monsters' Ball 120

8 Valley of Fear 134

9 The Lions of Zion 156

10 Dead Creatures Walking 168

11 The Loneliest Predator 184

Epilogue: Alone on the Hill 202

Acknowledgments 219

Notes 223

Bibliography 231

Index 279

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2009

    This book is awesome

    I heard the author on NPR. Thought the book might be interesting. I was wrong, this book in unbelievable. It paints a clear and concise story of the complex interrelationships in the ecosystem and the importance of the predators. This book should be required reading for all students and should be read by all people interested in saving our planet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2009

    Save the carnivores

    This is an informative, interesting, and disturbing account of the ecological impact of predator elimination. The author points out that some environmental problems commonly blamed on climate change may actually be the result of the loss of major predators in ecosystems. A particular point I found of concern is that what we today perceive to be wilderness is in truth an anemic vestige of once healthy ecosystems. Our standard for what we consider wild is sinking with potentially devastating consequences. This book provides a perspective on ecological issues not commonly covered in the popular press. I highly recommend you read this book if you care about the future of this planet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2009

    Engrossing Read With Vivid Descriptions

    Started out a little slow but quickly became engrossing. Detailed descriptions conjured up vivid images. Broken into easily digestible components.
    I didn't like the cheap shot and sweeping generalizations towards outdoorsmen. He failed to recognize contributions by outdoorsmen in excess of $5.5 billion dollars since the institution of the Pittman-Robertson Act, and an estimated additional $750,000,000 a year in other conservation dollars. Without the conservation efforts of sportsmen and women over the last century there would likely be no place left for the apex predators to roam. One more clarification, last year hunters in Pennsylvania harvested twice as many does as bucks so I guess they aren't all trophy hunters only willing to shoot a large buck as he suggested.
    Okay, my rant aside I enjoyed the book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2008

    An excellent resource that connects worldwide biodiversity decline with the loss of native carnivores

    'Where the Wild Things Were' is a profoundly thoughtful account of the importance of native carnivores - and the consequences that follow their loss. The book links together intriguing scientific stories around the world through researchers documenting the decline of ecosystems when they lose their top carnivores. Humans largely tend to misunderstand the critical role that these carnivores play in maintaining healthy biodiversity but, as public awareness grows, more can be done to help conserve these species. This book is a must read for high school and college biology students and anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation. Suzanne Asha Stone, Northern Rockies Wolf Conservation Specialist, Defenders of Wildlife.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    Tatum the hostes of the show

    Hi

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