A wildlife biologist shares some of his adventures in the field.
During his 30-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (he retired in 2004), Smith (Life on the Rocks: A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat, 2014, etc.) had his fair share of “joy, wonder, and drama” in the wilderness, and he shows readers how to “discover a deeper connection and greater purpose in conserving the rich wild heritage we all share.” Each essay is a snapshot of the life of a wildlife biologist and naturalist, written with the kind of exacting details one would expect from someone trained to be observant in nature. "Long, cobalt silhouettes of junipers slipped beneath as we chased our shadow across the dissected sagelands,” he writes in the first chapter. “An immature golden eagle sporting white-banded tail feathers, the decorative plumes prized by Plains Indians, streaked past the helicopter's left door….It was a great day to be alive, soaring with the eagle." When the helicopter crashes, readers are plunged into the waist-deep snow with Smith and his companions as they struggle to find shelter and notify someone of their whereabouts. The author also shares his anguish over shooting a mountain goat, the stress of being lost on a mountainside, how he navigates an encounter with a black bear with cubs, what he does when a sudden storm appears while fishing, and the dismay he feels when he discovers previously visited areas have become devoid of life. The prose is rich with details on the flora and fauna, and it’s also nostalgic, the musings of an older man reflecting on his life, his work, and the world he loves, which he sees changing primarily due to climate change and human incursions.
Reflective thoughts and vibrant specifics bring a nature biologist's love of the outdoors to readers.