Outdoor book reviews: February 2016

Bears in the Backyard:
Big Animals, Sprawling Suburbs, and the New Urban Jungle

By Edward R. Ricciuti

If you’re old enough to remember the Alfred Hitchcock sci-fi thriller, The Birds, you’ll recall that the wild birds in the movie suddenly turned against humans for no apparent reason, attacking and killing at random. The author of this new book claims that kind of behavior is now happening for real with several large, dangerous species of wildlife. And the phenomenon is occurring not only across the U.S., but also worldwide.

“Cougars are edging close to civilization in many parts of North America,” Ricciuti writes. “So are bears, supersize coyotes with wolf-blood in their veins, and several other species of wild creatures once confined to wilderness and backwaters. Make no mistake about it. Potentially dangerous wildlife is invading human turf, entering backyards in suburban neighborhoods, prowling urban parks, and stalking city streets. Big, powerful wild beasts are in the garden and on the doorstep.”

What’s just as scary is that Ricciuti is no wild-eyed alarmist. A veteran science journalist and naturalist, he is a former curator of the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society) and has covered wildlife issues around the world.

Just what species is he concerned about? A glance at a few of the book’s chapter titles gives an overview: “Return of the Cougar,” “Coyotes in Cities and New Wolves in the Woods,” “An Abundance of Bruins,” “Dangerous Deer and Marauding Moose,” “Gators on the Golf Course,” and “The Venomous Snakes Next Door.”

“The breaching of urban perimeters by large, wild creatures is not an anomaly,” warns Ricciuti. “It is a growing trend, a phenomenon that has never happened before. Fang and claw have crossed the white picket fence.”

Fifty Places to Paddle Before You Die:
Kayaking and Rafting Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations

By Chris Santella

Do you prefer the adrenaline rush of running whitewater rivers or, instead, paddling the placid bays of lakes and oceans? Either way, this new book will give you world-class options. Seventeen of the recommended waters are located within the United States, and two of the rivers are very close to Ohio — the New and Gauley Rivers of West Virginia.

“The New and Gauley are on many people’s list of top-ten, single-day whitewater rafting rivers,” writes the author. “Both have reliable flows, thanks to dam releases; and both have pleasantly warm water, thanks to rainwater, not snowmelt. Both rivers are of a pool/drop nature, so you have a moment to catch your breath between rapids. You can run both rivers in a weekend.”

A totally different experience mentioned in the book is canoe-camping the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northeastern Minnesota. This million acres of lakes and forests is the largest wilderness preserve east of the Rocky Mountains.  To the north, the area is bordered by Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, adding yet another million acres of wilderness. Overall, the BWCA contains more than 1,000 lakes, just waiting to be explored.
A handy “If You Go” section follows each location listed, including information on getting there, best time to visit, guides/outfitters, level of difficulty, and accommodations.