The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World

The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World

by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas


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In The Hidden Life of Deer, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden Life of Dogs, turns her attention to wild deer, and the many lessons we can learn by observing nature. A narrative masterpiece and a naturalist’s delight, The Hidden Life of Deer is based on the twelve months Thomas, a renowned anthropologist, spent studying the local deer population near her home in New Hampshire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061792113
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/02/2010
Pages: 239
Sales rank: 585,797
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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.

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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The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
techeditor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World is Elizabeth Marshall Thomas¿s description of what she observed about the wild animals, particularly the deer, in her backyard. It wasn¿t what the title led me to expect. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading that she often did what I do and thought what I think about the wildlife, particularly the deer, in my own backyard.I thought this book was going to be an authoritative explanation of the lives of the deer we see in our backyards every day. Instead, she mostly describes what she observes, which turned out to be more than I see because I don¿t look for as long as she does. And through her observations, I learned what deer do when I¿m not looking at them in my backyard or when they are hidden in trees and bushes. It made me want to watch more and more carefully. I want to see what she sees.Elizabeth Thomas and I think alike about wildlife in general. For instance, a big issue for me is the guilt I feel when my husband puts corn in our backyard for the deer. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says it¿s bad to feed wild animals for various reasons. But Keith and I (and Elizabeth Thomas) always thought, everyone feeds birds; so what do they have against larger wild animals? And when they¿re literally starving, why is it OK to watch them starve?So the most welcome part of this book for me was the chapter having to do with feeding wild animals. Elizabeth Thomas lives in New Hampshire. Every year New Hampshire Fish and Game gives residents pamphlets citing reasons (the same reasons given by HSUS) that they should not feed larger wild animals. For each reason Elizabeth Thomas explains how it does not apply to her specific case, which is similar to our case. Then she comes to the last reason, and she can¿t entirely negate it, although she tries. It¿s the one I worry about, too: if the deer are crowding each other as they eat the corn we put out for them, they may be spreading diseases among themselves and to other wild animals (such as turkeys) eating with them. But we try to justify our actions: they¿re hungry in the rough winters in New Hampshire and Michigan (where we live with our wild animals), so we feed them corn. Besides, in our backyard in Michigan, we have never seen more than 12 deer at once, usually fewer than 6, and then they are spread out, not crowding each other for the food.I learned much more from this book, the best being the explanations for deer behavior that we¿ve observed but could only guess about. Of course, sometimes she was guessing, too, about their motivations, but her guesses were more educated than ours.One reader review of The Hidden Life of Deer on calls this book a satire. One of us is misunderstanding.
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From the title, ¿Hidden Life of Deer¿, I assumed this book was written by a naturalist and intended to give laymen more insight about these beautiful animals. But it¿s really written by a layperson, telling of her observation of the deer that she feeds on her property. So my expectations were completely off. And I found myself really irritated with the lack of science, and the constant rationalizations of behavior that goes against recommendations of wildlife experts.I might have really enjoyed this book, if I¿d had appropriate expectations. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas obviously loves her deer friends, and has entertaining anecdotes to share. She¿s a kind-hearted soul, and a keen observer of ¿her¿ animals. Her writing is warm and friendly, rambling like a cozy conversation over a cup of tea ¿ with occasional passionate outbursts. If you¿d like a cozy, relaxing narrative non-fiction about one woman¿s relationship with her local deer, this is your book. If you¿re looking for science, look elsewhere.
msbaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Have you ever been entranced with the wildlife that frequents your backyard? Have you watched them tirelessly with fascination and pleasure? Have you fed them, or been tempted to feed them? Do you love animals and harbor a keen curiosity to know more about their social life, thought processes, and emotion? If this sounds like you, then you should strongly consider reading The Hidden Life of Deer by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. The author is an accomplished anthropologist and novelist. She lives in New Hampshire in a home bordering a large natural wooded area. It abounds with deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, and bear. During the winter of 2006/2007, the oak trees in her portion of the world did something that is perfectly natural for them: they produced an extremely poor supply of acorns as a natural means of controlling the overabundance of predators that were feeding on their seeds and preventing the trees from multiplying more successfully. This is the oak trees' form of natural pest control. Of course, what this meant for the author's local deer and turkey population was starvation. As a result, the author started feeding the deer and turkeys. What started as a powerful impulse of compassion, ended up as a yearlong research project. In the height of that winter, she was feeding approximately 25 deer and 50 wild turkeys on seventy-five pounds of corn per day!Many readers, myself included, will find fault with her meddling with nature and perhaps temporarily upsetting the natural ecological balance of her native local woods. But others will find solace in her many reasoned justifications. Personally, I found them clouded in psychological rationalization. However, I must admit that I, too, would have been sorely tempted to follow suit, and might indeed have done exactly as she did given the same circumstances. It is hard to buck your own inner compassion with reasoned scientific logic! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author writes well; her book is easy and pleasant to read. I read it in one day, not because I had to, but because it kept me interested and involved. There is a lot of astute scientific observation and general information about deer, wild turkeys, and other natural processes. The reading experience is not overly scientific; rather, it is more like listening to a neighbor who is telling you about her exciting experiences and research as an armchair naturalist. I was disturbed by what the author decided to do about feeding the animals the following winter, when the acorn yield was once again abundant. But I say this realizing full well that the urge for compassion is hard to control.I am very glad that I read the book and recommend it to all who have a strong interest in the social and emotional life of wild animals.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
DanBlore More than 1 year ago
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.
sjVT More than 1 year ago
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!