"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
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.