Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law (Large Print / Library Binding)
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In February 2022, there was a criminal on the loose in Lake Tahoe. Homes around the lake were being ransacked. Unlike most thieves, this one was not after expensive electronics or jewels, instead he wanted food. Officials pointed the finger at a local 500-pound black bear named Hank the Tank. Due process is not afforded to black bears, surprisingly, and California Fish and Wildlife had to decide whether to kill or relocate Hank the Tank. At the eleventh hour, however, DNA evidence collected at the crime scenes exonerated Hank. Several other bears were responsible for the break-ins around Lake Tahoe. The prodigious black bear was left alone.
Hank’s saga occurred after the publication of Mary Roach’s “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” but stories like his are contained within its pages. Roach is a popular science writer who over the past twenty years has released numerous books covering various subjects including dead bodies (Stiff), the science of sex (Bonk), and the effects of space on the human body (Packing for Mars).
In “Fuzz”, Roach explores the intersections of the human and animal worlds and humanity’s often misguided attempts to control nature. How do you stop a bear from breaking into a vacation home in the woods, and what happens if one does anyways? Does a bear who enjoys midnight snacks from the fridge deserve to be removed from its natural territory or even killed? How do you balance the safety of people and their property with a bear’s right to just be a bear?
Beyond hungry Ursidae, Roach covers a variety of topics from around the globe. Farmers in India struggle with elephants eating their crops, the history of Australia’s ill-fated war against the emu, and the vandalizing seagulls of St. Peter’s Square (Alaric would be proud). I learned a lot and her investigative reporting got me to consider a variety of topics that I have seldom thought about. Roach’s writing is celebrated as quirky, witty, and charming. Though the Washington Post billed her “America’s funniest science writer,” humor is subjective. While I occasionally chuckled, I generally found myself experiencing a lot of second-hand embarrassment. She seems to revel in awkward conversations and asking cringe-inducing questions to the people she interviews. The results will either make the reader laugh or squirm, depending on their disposition.
Science and nature lovers will find a lot to love in “Fuzz.”
September 2021 Indie Next List
“Human encounters with wildlife are increasing as land development shrinks wildlife habitat. Roach recounts dangerous engagements, some head-shaking practices, and plenty of laugh-out-loud turf wars.”
— Kay Wosewick, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.
Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and danger tree faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter's Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque.
Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature's lawbreakers. When it comes to problem wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem--and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.