Biologist and wildlife management expert Shivik unravels the hydra-headed conundrum confronting ranchers and urban and rural individuals seeking solutions for controlling wolves, bears, cougars and coyotes in the 21st-century American landscape.
“The predator paradox is about the interface of humans, animals, and environment, and not about an easy, clear morality from a distance,” writes the author. “It is about the people and animals that we impact, either directly or within a few degrees of separation.” Each year, federal agents kill more than 90,000 wolves, bears, cougars and coyotes, and other agencies and citizens also have strong opinions concerning the role these large predators should or should not play in our lives. Often when biologists lead public hearings focused on predator control, the meetings “tend to become vituperative eruptions” rather than sessions of reasoned discourse. “How different people approach or answer those questions tells a lot about how widely fundamental human values can differ,” Shivik writes. The author explores the experiments by scientists searching for methods for nonlethal control of predators, and he discusses different behaviors among the various predator groups as well as between individual animals. Shivik surveys the issue from the point of view of ranchers and farmers whose livelihoods are tied to making a living off the land, and he recounts the bloody history of predator control in the United States, describing the role played by Wildlife Services today. Ultimately, the author stresses that each of us “have a certain responsibility to understand and act on wildlife issues, rural and urban, distant and near.”
Shivik’s style makes the science accessible and relevant for general readers. The narrative is carried by the author’s insights, admonitions and the engaging profiles of those working to resolve the predator paradox.