I’ve read a lot of books by Mary Roach, but I was unaware that Roach had published two new books since I’d last read anything by her. Somehow I’d missed both Grunt (2016) and Fuzz (2021) by Roach. I decided to remedy that and picked up Fuzz at the library.
Even though it’s been years, I was hoping that I would still appreciate Roach’s unique investigatory writing style. Where her most memorable books involved big topics like: sex, death, and space, I wasn’t sure I would be as interested in: “when nature breaks the law.” I read a lot of books about nature and animals, and I can be frustrated when the topic is not handled well. Fortunately, Roach created a sometimes thoughtful, sometimes funny book that was both interesting and informative.
Roach begins her book with a discussion of bears getting into trash in the alleys of Aspen. There are problem black bears around the country, but the wealth in Aspen adds an interesting dimension. Roach shadowed some of the career wildlife people whose job it is to deal with bears. Whenever you have humans and animals living in close proximity, there will always be some issues, but there are definite ways to reduce conflict. The challenging part is to get people to do what needs to be done. In Aspen, people were not securing their trash as required, and it made a significant difference.
Roach continues on in her book to discuss elephants killing people and ruining crops, monkeys in India, leopards killing people, gulls at St. Peters, birds eating crops, and the killing of invasive species in New Zealand in order to save native species. They are all interesting topics. The difference in attitude towards animals between the United States and India was particularly interesting. In general, the United States is much less forgiving of animal trespasses, and death is quickly meted out while in other countries more care seems to be given to the animals. For instance, if an elephant kills a human, it will only be killed if it is determined that the animal acted aggressively. It is very possible for an elephant to accidentally kill a human and then nothing is done.
One other topic was controlling animal populations with birth control. I learned that the majority of wild mares in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are on birth control. I was a little surprised because I was up at that park last summer and didn’t hear anything about it.
A running theme is that with more and more humans encroaching more and more on land that has been used by wild animals that conflict is inevitable. There are no magic answers, and there will always be problems. “Meanwhile, you do what you can to reduce the heavy footfall of humanity: keep working to restore forests and set aside preserves.” (66)
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