When Mountain Lions AreNeighbors by Beth Pratt Bergstrom, California Director for The National Wildlife Federation, is a thoughtful and well-written collection of stories that highlight the challenges and opportunities that are inherent when people and wildlife coexist.
The book focuses on the ways in which individuals – from biologists and other natural scientists to homeowners and freeway commuters – are finding ways to support and even encourage California’s amazing biodiversity. A pair of deer venturing across the Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing presence of P22, Griffith Park’s resident cougar, a peregrine falcon in San Jose City, and harbor porpoises returning to San Francisco Bay are only a few of the remarkable stories.
Bergstrom covers a lot of territory as she recounts the work undertaken to study and conserve a wide variety of creatures across California’s geographically diverse landscape. Each of the five photo-illustrated chapters open with a specific case and its significance in the overall conservation picture then enlarges on the theme to include associated topics before closing with a look at other related animals and situations in a series of one-page essays at the end of each chapter.
The writing is compelling and varied in its approach to the subjects. Chapter Three, Keeping Bears Wild: How Staff and Visitors in Yosemite National Park Help Wildlife, opens with forty-eight hours in the life of Yosemite black bear, based on the recorded travels of one of the bears tracked for research in 2014. This approach provides readers with an in-depth look at motivations, behaviors, and the impact of human habitation on the natural activity of this wild inhabitant of Yosemite. Additional discussions focus on Yosemite’s environment, the work of staff to intervene and develop humane strategies to reduce human/bear interactions that led to property damage and bear deaths. The chapter concludes with a look at the bighorn sheep, the fisher, the pika, Great Gray Owls, and the Yosemite Toad among other subjects.
The final chapter, Good Neighbors: What Californians Are Doing For Wildlife In Their Own Backyards details the ways in which communities, schools, organizations, and individuals are finding ways to support local wildlife.
The tone of the book is honest, realistic, and cautiously hopeful. The current challenges facing out natural environments are daunting, but this book is a reminder that successes are possible. Whether you’re a dedicated conservationist or simply someone who values the opportunity to enjoy a walk in nature, you’ll find inspiration and a new appreciation of the wild world just outside your door.
I enthusiastically recommend When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors.