Claudia Putnam's Reviews > The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America

The Beast in the Garden by David    Baron
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bookshelves: journalistic-synthetic-non-fiction, nature-writing, science

3.75 stars, really. Well-written, just not quite as dimensional as something by John Vaillant or as deeply characterized as a work by Timothy Egan... I was graduated from CU-Boulder in 1986 and lived in Boulder County till 2011. Now I live in a similar environment on the Western Slope, so this book pretty much summarizes my adulthood. Like everyone I have lots of lion tales to tell. Therefore, perhaps I found it less gripping than other readers did--I knew the story, I WAS the story. Everyone in it is more or less at least an FOAF. But on that level it couldn't help but be interesting... it was a kind of gossip. I also really appreciated learning more about Scott Lancaster, who I confess has always been in my consciousness as "that high school kid." I'm glad to know him better now.

I'm sorry about the subtitle, because even though I get it--the ecotone IS really the suburb, and the relevance is the repopulation of the suburban foothills by lions--Boulder itself is not and does not think of itself as a suburb, in that most suburbs are oriented toward a larger urban core, and Boulder really doesn't consider itself as being centered on Denver. Denver is merely an occasional option, a thing-to-do, for most Boulderites. It's another way in which Boulder thinks of itself as being different, another arrogance it has. Boulder is best thought of as an Ann Arbor or a Santa Barbara or Chapel Hill or an Austin or a Madison, only perhaps with a lot more going on than any of those places (or so it thinks), that by coincidence also happens to be located close to a major metropolitan area, or perhaps it's Denver that happens to be located near Boulder. Occasionally a member of a Boulder household may commute to Denver, but Denver is not "the city" in the way that San Francisco, say, is. Just saying, because part of the story is the irony of the way Boulder in particular has embraced its idea of "nature" and how that's in turn brought the beast back to the garden, and that in turn is about how Boulder views itself as different, which is also about how its made itself into an island, which is about how it's kept itself separate from Denver and the suburbs.

And yet, these other towns, which are actual suburbs, and some of which are not even in Colorado, and which have NOT done all this to create these little edens, are ALSO getting these deer and lion incursions, so, what's up with that, anyway? Maybe the argument of the book doesn't even hold up.

And that ain't Boulder on the cover. It might be Ned.

I wished he hadn't gone so guy-y for some of the scenes, like every breath and blood spurt during the lion hunt and every possible speculation for Scott Lancaster's last breaths. The Tarantino moments I could have done without. It was interesting to read of how they train hounds to hunt lions. The implication is that there's no efffective way to do this humanely--for the dogs, let alone the lions--actually, it seems less humane for the dogs.

So, that leads me to wonder if hunting lions is the way to manage them. It sounds like there's no ethical way to do it--if the dogs can't be humanely trained, then hunting should be out of the question. The books seems to argue that shooting them is the only way to go, though. But Wildlife officials seem to be taking other tacks with some success while Baron does not fully explore these. He lists a few but does not examine the levels of success. It would be interesting to know more. Also, I don't remember how often trappers and hunters in other cultures use dogs and what kinds of dogs they use (for tigers, etc). That would be interesting to know. Vaillant would be good to ask.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 1, 2015 – Finished Reading
April 8, 2015 – Shelved
April 8, 2015 – Shelved as: journalistic-synthetic-non-fiction
August 20, 2016 – Shelved as: nature-writing
August 20, 2016 – Shelved as: science

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