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Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat's Walk Across America
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Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat's Walk Across America

5.0 2
by William Stolzenburg
 

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Late one June night in 2011, a large animal collided with an SUV cruising down a Connecticut parkway. The creature appeared as something out of New England's forgotten past. Beside the road lay a 140-pound mountain lion.

Speculations ran wild, the wildest of which figured him a ghostly survivor from a bygone century when lions last roamed the eastern United

Overview

Late one June night in 2011, a large animal collided with an SUV cruising down a Connecticut parkway. The creature appeared as something out of New England's forgotten past. Beside the road lay a 140-pound mountain lion.

Speculations ran wild, the wildest of which figured him a ghostly survivor from a bygone century when lions last roamed the eastern United States. But a more fantastic scenario of facts soon unfolded. The lion was three years old, with a DNA trail embarking from the Black Hills of South Dakota on a cross-country odyssey eventually passing within thirty miles of New York City. It was the farthest landbound trek ever recorded for a wild animal in America, by a barely weaned teenager venturing solo through hostile terrain.

William Stolzenburg retraces his two-year journey--from his embattled birthplace in the Black Hills, across the Great Plains and the Mississippi River, through Midwest metropolises and remote northern forests, to his tragic finale upon Connecticut's Gold Coast. Along the way, the lion traverses lands with people gunning for his kind, as well as those championing his cause.

Heart of a Lion is a story of one heroic creature pitting instinct against towering odds, coming home to a society deeply divided over his return. It is a testament to the resilience of nature, and a test of humanity's willingness to live again beside the ultimate symbol of wildness.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/29/2016
In this short but wide-ranging book, Stolzenburg (Rat Island) traces the lone odyssey of a single male mountain lion across the United States, culminating in June 2011 in Connecticut with the cat’s demise on a motorist’s fender. The book more broadly examines the current population of the mountain lions of South Dakota’s Black Hills, where the titular cat originated. The evidence of his eastward journey is presented sporadically throughout the text, with a live sighting here and a trail camera video there, as well as various clues of tracks and scat. Stolzenburg intersperses cougar history into the narrative, stretching back to prehistoric times and forward through to the early 21st century. He profiles humans who interact with these big cats, such as researcher and advocate Chris Spatz of the Eastern Cougar Foundation, and even conspiracy theorists who believe the government is secretly airlifting cougars into the eastern U.S. to control deer populations. Stolzenburg’s prose occasionally misses the mark; his description of famed cougar hunter Ben Lilly reads more like a tall tale, and elsewhere his writing veers toward hyperbole (“Eastward before him lay the black abyss of alien prairie”). Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"The journey quest -- a hero’s voyage toward a remote and significant goal -- is a core plot device in much of the world’s best folklore and literature. Think of Jason and the Golden Fleece, Odysseus and his homeland, and, more recently, Sal Paradise in On the Road or W.P. Inman in Cold Mountain. The journey quest at the heart of William Stolzenburg’s new book features an unconventional hero to be sure, a three-year-old mountain lion who remains unnamed throughout. Yet readers will find it both compelling and insightful, a worthy addition to the narratives of young adventurers in search of riches, love, and meaning . . . Stolzenburg’s thoughtful and gripping narrative, in the end, is less about the sad heart of a lion on a fruitless quest, and more about the hearts and minds of the humans whose territory it traversed." —Natural History Magazine

"Stolzenburg does not minimize the importance of removing these wild animals from populated areas, but he argues persuasively that an extermination policy is unnecessary and repugnant on moral grounds . . . A serious, engrossing look at issues influencing state and federal conservation policy." —Kirkus Reviews

"Heart of a Lion is a tale of extraordinary achievement and resilience that reads both like an adventure novel and a detective story. But the beauty of this book is that its hero is not a human, but North America's largest resident wild cat, the mountain lion. And the journey so vividly and painstakingly documented by William Stolzenburg, working with a few dedicated mountain lion experts and other scientists, is one for the biological record books. This is a story of survival, a tale of how a big cat uses stealth, cunning, and physical prowess to travel thousands of miles seeking others of its kind to settle new lands and seed future generations. I loved this book." —Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Chief Executive Officer of Panthera

"This is one stirring account of one stirring journey: the trek of a fellow creature through a hostile, man-made world -- and through our imaginations." —Bill McKibben, author of EAARTH: MAKING A LIFE ON A TOUGH NEW PLANET

"One of the most persuasive and enthralling natural history books I've ever read. A powerful voice for learning to live with our wild neighbors." —John Davis, cofounder of the Wildlands Network

"What a great book. In Heart of a Lion, Will Stolzenburg follows the long and unimaginable journey of a lone male mountain lion from the Black Hills of South Dakota to his unfortunate death near Greenwich, Connecticut. We learn just how awesome these prototype predators really are -- predators who need to survive in a human-dominated world. I hope this book will rewild the hearts of people and generate further admiration and protection for this most amazing cat." —Mark Bekoff, author of REWILDING OUR HEARTS and board member of the Cougar Fund

Kirkus Reviews
2016-01-20
Veteran science writer Stolzenburg (Rat Island: Predators in Paradise—and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue, 2011, etc.) tracks the two-year journey of a mountain lion from his home in South Dakota's Black Hills to a Connecticut parkway only 70 miles from New York City. The 3-year-old, approximately 140-pound big cat had traveled more than 2,000 miles before his untimely death in 2011 on a heavily trafficked highway. His journey—most likely in search of a mate—provides the scaffolding for the author's broader story of how mountain lions have been driven to the verge of extinction by misguided, selfish policies and groundless fears that promote their extermination. This lion, writes Stolzenburg, had been one of a decreasing number of survivors "as hunters' quarry, public enemy, and roadkill candidate, dodging the armed sportsmen and police and the vehicular predators." In 1914, Congress appropriated money at the behest of cattle raisers and sheep farmers to provide bounties for mercenary hunters, who had the mandate to rid the country of predators. In the 1960s, conservationists succeeded in eliminating bounties, and hunting seasons were established. As a result, a small colony of the lions have survived in the Dakota Hills, but powerful ranchers still agitate for their complete extermination. Myths abound about the extent of the danger the lions pose to humans and pets when they wander down from the hills. In the 1970s, writes the author, there were 16 attacks on people, resulting in three deaths. Though many more sightings were reported, most of those proved to be mistaken. Stolzenburg does not minimize the importance of removing these wild animals from populated areas, but he argues persuasively that an extermination policy is unnecessary and repugnant on moral grounds. Moreover, the lions play an important ecological role, keeping down the populations of deer and rabbits, which, when left unchecked, strip forests of vegetation. A serious, engrossing look at issues influencing state and federal conservation policy, though not for readers looking for a feel-good tale.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620405529
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
04/12/2016
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
192,155
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author


Will Stolzenburg has studied predator control techniques and worked as a wildlife technician, monitoring endangered species. He has written hundreds of magazine features and columns on the ecology of rarity and extinction for Science News and Nature Conservancy, among others. He lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

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Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat's Walk Across America 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written, well documented, important book. In addition to telling the story of a remarkable animals journey it addresses our need for such a creature. Along with Monbiot's Feral and Carroll's The Serengeti Rules, The Heart of a Lion again stresses the need for balance in the neural order and the consequences when that balance is lost.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She ran until she came to a river. She slowed down and walked to its edge. There she sat down sadly and stared into the water.