My biggest problem with Fuzz is that the whole premise is kind of misleading; this is not really a book about animals breaking laws; it’s mentioned that elephants have killed people, rats and mice destroy agriculture (theft sort of) seagulls destroy the Easter flowers at St Peter’s in the Vatican, and deer cause a lot of traffic damage, but none of this seems to actually be the point. Fuzz is really a book about humans and animals not always getting along, basically there’s a lot of talk about pests and pest control. The ethics of humane killing, ways to deal with invasive species, how to track and deal with big cats or bears who get close to human dwellings etc. There’s some interesting history and science involved but that’s usually minimized in favor of focusing on the people who do the research or animal control, and/or education efforts. There’s even a few chapter on plants, very large trees and rosary peas (with mentions of castor beans too), that are dangerous to people. These are interesting but not the same as the premise of the book suggests; honestly, the plant stuff was more interesting in some ways because it didn’t have all the author’s generalizing about people and controlling their environments, although the tree chapter subject-wise does go that way.
That’s my other complaint, namely that there is a really inconsistent tone. Sometimes you get a lot of information, other times very little. Sometimes the writing is more technical or straightforward, other times, it gets quite casual and conversational (and not when reporting a conversation). An example first from the foot notes: “The formula for calculating how much wood a woodchuck could chuck is 0 x (the name is an English corruption of a regional Algonquian word, wuchak).” I actually appreciate the mild snark here and the knowledge of the etymology, but the combination just makes it s little bit confusing to see what is actually being said. The part that really annoyed me had to do with a review of a history of birds and plane engines, presented in the form of a documentary film, but no such fil was actually cited, and the whole thing starts like a normal narrative so how-when do we get to the film style? Or is it a real film? There’s also scattered illustrations but sometimes there’s a picture that doesn’t have much to do with what’s currently in the text, but 50 pages later there’s some discussion of a potential animal trap that might have been that diagram I saw a while ago, where was that again? A description of a white-tail deer control system used in Yellowstone National Park 20 years ago didn’t work because of false positives like snow falling or “Caution! Milkweed swaying in the wind!” The whole thing ends with the author deciding not to kill a rat in her house, eventually getting it out, and seeing it around as though it were a neighbor (which I suppose it technically sort of is).
Clearly there’s a lot of information and ideas and research going on, and a lot of unknowns, but I just wish the whole thing had been a little more consistent.