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The Predator Paradox: Ending the War with…

The Predator Paradox: Ending the War with Wolves, Bears, Cougars, and…

by John Shivik

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Dr. Shivik's work centers on the "war" on predators such as wolves, bears, cougars, and coyotes. These animals are commonly considered nuisances and are freely slaughtered in most of their primary home territories. Ranchers, especially, are affected by these predators as their livestock is at risk on a daily basis. Reading Dr. Shivik, you'd think there was a straight-forward way to deal with this situation.

I'm not convinced. While I'm no expert on this subject, and despite the decent writing and narrative style, I don't find Dr. Shivik's argument fully convincing. The way he handles criticism of his ideas is really distracting at times. Not a terrible read and survey of the subject, but does not provide a clear or convincing argument regarding the ending of this "war."
  IslandDave | Jun 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Dr John Shivik is a wildlife biologist and researcher specializing in devising non-lethal control of predators.

It's a subject that I read with keen interest since it's an issue here in the Montana mountain valley where I live. Although I don't have livestock, except for a few horses, my property has coyotes, foxes and the occasional mountain lion traveling through. Naturally bears live here, although I don't see them at my place. A wildlife biologist wolf specialist says the wolf density here in the valley is greater than in Yellowstone Park.

I learned a lot from this book about the research going into predator control and the predators themselves.

Unfortunately, there aren't any easy answers. Dr Shivik gives the impression that the the answers are at hand and the war is over, but it isn't and won't be for years to come.

Coyotes and wolves get habituated and begin ignoring strategies such as flags to scare them away from ranchers' yummy and enticing herds. Electric fencing is expensive for the huge pastures in the west and a moose traveling through can take down a quarter mile of fence in one go. Guard llamas are suggested for sheep as protection against wolves and coyotes, but while this may work for coyotes, wolves are happy to dine on llama. Other strategies are still in the development stage with long term results and cost/benefit ratios yet unproven. These include causing predators to be negatively conditioned with emetic chemicals, or neutering coyotes with the expectations that less pups will produce less livestock killing. Finally, some solutions such as getting rid of sheep ranching altogether or putting beef cattle in barns at night are simply nonsensical.

The writing is lively and entertaining, but in places the tone of the book bothered me as most of the humans are given cartoon-ish, mostly unflattering, stereotypes.

Ranchers are almost universally portrayed as backward and rather unteachable. Those who don't agree with him (even those who live in Spain) are dubbed rednecks.

The Mormon community he lives in is “known chiefly for their aversion to alcohol and coffee”. (p18)

Several descriptions of his colleagues, especially women colleagues, are troubling. For example, this bit of sexist nonsense:

"Val Asher would have been perfectly cast as the resourceful, confident, borderline truculent heroine in a dusty western. She had dark eyes and wavy brown hair, but was so tough and scrappy that you almost forget how pretty she was. I could not imagine that she'd ever appear in a dainty dress, much less petticoats. A long time wolf trapper, Val played the part accurately."

Gag me with a spoon. How would you like to be the professional colleague that has to drag that around for the rest of her career?

In addition, there are small, sloppy misstatements throughout the book such as the one on page 49 “opening the chest cavity, I see that the liver is gone ...” which had me on the internet to see if the author actually is a biologist. (He is)
Summary: Highly readable although often condescending; interesting work and potential but promises more than it delivers. Recommended for those with an interest in the large predators, but definitely needs to be taken with a grain of salt for the biases expressed. ( )
  streamsong | Aug 7, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was delighted to be sent this book through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. The importance of keystone predators is one of my personal favorite topics, and I haven't read as interesting a book on the topic since Where The Wild Things Were. This book talks primarily about the importance of bears, wolves, and coyotes, and it makes well-reasoned arguments regarding their importance to an ecosystem. If predator hunters could be convinced to read this book, it might change some minds. ( )
  authoramy | Jul 7, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a free copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

I grew up in an area that had coyotes, their yips could sometimes be heard while I was trying to go to sleep. I have seen them on numerous occasions, including once while I waited in my car in a parking lot. I now live where there are black bears, so this book was one I could identify with. It was an interesting read, and I learned many new things about the creatures that share my environment. I learned that I should have probably been more cautious around coyotes, and that I don't need to be as afraid of black bears as I have been. I also learned that I am not alone in my feelings towards these animals.

The book is broken down into chapters, most of them follow a different person and we learn something new about an animal and the way we deal with them. It talks about the fears we have, and the environmental issues that surround the way we deal with these animals. While we might love our cities and towns, we need to not forget that this land isn't only ours. John A. Shivik teaches us, and opens our minds to the complicated problem and offers a solution that is not based in fear but respect and education. I think anyone that lives in an area that has a natural predator would benefit from reading this book. ( )
  wincrow | May 29, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book for Early Reviewers, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Another full disclosure moment: in case you haven't already noticed, I am a little biased when it comes to books with animal topics. I have worked for a number of non-profits dealing with animal rights, welfare and conservation, so keep that in mind when reading my reviews! ;-) When I picked this book up, I was expecting an argument that was dry, uncreative, and offering little in the terms of solutions. I thought the author would focus on what we were doing wrong, and not what we could do to fix the problem in a realistic way. I could not have been more wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by the ease with which I was able to understand the material - yes, the text is not as captivating as it could be, and that is certainly its biggest fault, but it is definitely digestible to the average reader. I would argue that in order to be picked up by the ideal audience, it should be rewritten to be slightly more engaging (it sometimes reads a bit like a thesis or journalistic paper). BUT, that being said, Shivik knows what he is talking about in this book. He lays it all out - the problems with our current relationship with predators (wolves, bears, cougars, and particularly coyotes), current solutions developed for predator management, and the issues with those solutions. He offers hands-on ideas and ways we could tackle this paradox, and talks about the different factors that go into the "war" concerning our co-existence. It was an excellent and informing read.
A few passages that I enjoyed (and subsequently bookmarked and read to my husband):

"Another western bumper sticker reads, 'Earth First! We'll log the other planets later.' Why would someone with such a sentiment care about trophic cascades? Why would this person care about loss of species, other than species with economic value? Ecological arguments are irrelevant in such a context. All hope is not lost, however. The chasm between the various camps is not too wide to cross, but reaching solutions will require an acknowledgement of, and respect for, the idea that other value systems may be as valid as one's own. We must acknowledge our own internal biases too."

(After discussing study findings indicating that bears will return to the same spot over and over, even if unrewarded each time after the first)
"Bears learn and remember well. Cabin owners and campers should remember this: people have to leave food out only once. It could be a forgotten bag of pet food on the porch or bits of meat on the grill. If a bear finds the food and eats, then stopping the bear from returning is far more difficult than just cleaning up the next time."

"The researchers also came to understand that coyotes that killed sheep were also better at avoiding human control methods. Coyote control preferentially removed the "good" coyotes, but left the repeat offenders, and the most destructive coyotes had become the most difficult to kill...the number of coyotes that were removed had no correlation with lamb loss; predation continued regardless of widespread removal until the actual culprit was taken." ( )
  skrouhan | May 28, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807084964, Hardcover)

An expert in wildlife management tells the stories of those who are finding new ways for humans and mammalian predators to coexist.
The longest armed conflict carried out by the United States government, beginning in 1914, is our war with mammalian predators. The death toll is tremendous: federal agents kill ninety thousand wolves, bears, coyotes, and cougars every year.  The paradox is that we need to safeguard ourselves and livestock from predators, while simultaneously preserving and protecting these key species—fundamental components of healthy ecosystems. Shivik argues that we can end the war. By shifting away from “death from above” and embracing nonlethal approaches to managing wildlife—practices and technologies he has helped pioneer—we can dismantle the paradox, have both people and predators on the landscape, and ensure the long-term survival of both. Blending the science of the wild with entertaining and dramatic storytelling throughout, Shivik traces the culture of “good old boy” wildlife managers and observes the difference two cows can make to a widow rancher. Shivik’s clear-eyed pragmatism allows him appeal to both sides of the debate, while arguing for the possibility of coexistence: between ranchers and environmentalists, wildlife managers and animal-welfare activists, and humans and animals.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:59 -0400)

An expert in wildlife management outlines examples of successful practices of non-lethal mammal predator management, revealing how tens of thousands of threatened predators are euthanized annually and how to change current approaches to protect ecosystems and human needs.… (more)

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