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Book review: ‘The Predator Paradox’ sheds light on controversial issue

By Karen Schwarze

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 21 2014 3:05 p.m. MDT

"THE PREDATOR PARADOX: Ending the War with Wolves, Bears, Cougars and Coyotes," by John A. Shivik, Beacon Press, $26.95, 196 pages (nf)

John A. Shivik, mammals program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and who has studied and backs non-lethal techniques for predator management, offers options for dealing with a set of animals that kill and frighten livestock, endanger humans and pets and fuel an ongoing and often heated debate.

Shivik's book, "The Predator Paradox: Ending the War with Wolves, Bears, Cougars and Coyotes," functions as a fair introduction for the non-initiated reader as well as a resource for those with vested interest in the issue, especially with his detailed analysis of animal psychology and applications of aversive stimuli to discourage predators from approaching livestock. He also offers techniques for protecting humans and pets from predators when interaction is possible.

Beyond describing scientific studies, including his own, Shivik describes part of the zeitgeist that moves Americans to their current mindset about the wilderness and animal predators. He suggests that Americans need to “relearn how to interact with nature."

Part of that relearning, according to Shivik, includes tolerating predators: “The central question: Do we want to have predators around, or do we want to keep the price of burgers low and have a choice of hundreds of types of beans in small-town grocery marts? Or is there some balance?”

Increasing the intimacy of our relationship with nature — part of this “relearning” — can be done through hunting one’s own meat, eating less meat, buying local meat and adopting alternative approaches to meat consumption, Shivik writes.

Shivik, a Logan resident, asserts that in the 1970s, people discovered “phenomena such as tropic cascades and the fact that top predators were essential components of ecosystems."

Later, he writes: “Many ecosystems have functioned for a long time without predators. Ecosystems without top predators look and act differently, but whether they ought to have — or lack — top predators is a subjective human value judgment."

Shivik’s opinion of the North American ecosystem, the role predators share in it and if the arguments against killing are based in science or subjective judgment would have been an interesting addition.

There is one instance of mild language and no sexual innuendo. There is a description of hunting and some descriptions of predator attacks on humans.

Karen Schwarze lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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