"Join "America's funniest science writer" (Peter Carlson, Washington Post) Mary Roach on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet. What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A grizzly bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? 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. 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. Along the way, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature's lawbreakers. Combining little- known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and mugging macaques, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat"--
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My initial impression of this one is that, while it was readable and interesting enough, certainly, it wasn't nearly as entertaining as many of Mary Roach's earlier books. After a while, I realized that at least part of the problem was that even someone who once made reading about corpses an oddly enjoyable experience, couldn't (and, let's face it, probably shouldn't) do the same for stories about people getting mauled by bears or children being killed by leopards. After the first few chapters, though, she turns to some slightly less somber topics -- monkeys stealing things, seagulls vandalizing the Pope's flowers, weird tactics for scaring birds -- and things get rather more fun, especially Roach's trademark weird, hilarious footnotes. Well, mostly it gets more fun, anyway. The chapter about research into humane forms of pest control, perhaps ironically, is quite distressing.
Rating: I wavered just a little on this, but even when she's writing about things that are genuinely disturbing (as opposed to just kind of gross), Mary Roach is always worth reading.
"I have read the 1978 paper by researchers... who tried to warn away white-tailed deer by erecting roadside plywood cutouts of deer rear ends with tails a-flagging. On some... an actual deer tail had been nailed in place. Sadly, because who wouldn't want to see our nation's highways lined with plywood deer asses with decomposing tails, none of it worked."
Then the story of "fecal bags" attached to goat butts (no, she's not always scatological, but, well, she often is)... a harness was designed with no fewer than 19 leather straps that allowed goats to rear up on their hind legs. "In a minor setback, several of the nonharnessed goats, being goats, ate the leather straps off their pals." I had to include that quote.
I'm pro-wildlife but I find a little tiresome heroic efforts to get vermin out of your home without actually harming any critters. I do not wish to inflict cruelty. When she says glue traps ought to be banned, because "a professional pest control person should be checking the traps daily and humanely killing any rodent that's been caught... what homeowner is going to tackle that?" We do, actually. We use glue traps because they work, and my husband, bless him, humanely dispatches anything we catch, always within half a day. She admits herself that snap traps very often fail to kill immediately and humanely, so what's the diff? But the complaints about have-a-heart style traps where you release the critters somewhere far away - well, then they don't know the territory and they get eaten. OK, as if in their own territory, they live to a ripe old age enjoying Lawrence Welk and complaining their children never call. It's a thing-kill-thing world out there, people!
I was pretty disgusted to hear how Big Sunflower kept trying to kill blackbirds that would feast in their sunflower fields. They said blackbirds were responsible for the loss of about 2% of their crop. 2%? You can't give 2% for wildlife? You have to kill and bomb and poison and kill myriad other inoffensive birds too in the process? 2% of your crop, for a healthy blackbird population and all the other little tweeters too. Cmon!
Back about getting pests out of your home. (It's a sore spot with me.) She had a rat in her walls. A rat! So instead of doing anything lethal, she so virtuously had the pest guy come over, figure out where he was getting in, and plug all the entrances with steel wool. Problem solved! Sure! Oh, it's so simple! Sure, just go around putting a little steel wool here and there. I wish it were that easy to keep things out.
My favorite parts were the bears in Colorado, though I admit I can find them fascinating because I don't live where I would run into any. They infiltrate houses, stealing food, they can open the refrigerator, take out a carton of eggs and remove the eggs one by one. Monkeys that hold cell phone hostages until they are given food by the tourists. Yellow eyed penguins, only found in New Zealand that are now in danger of extinction. Much information in this book, sometimes a little too much, but as always her research seems impeccable. Her trademark humor is inserted here and there but not as much as in some of her works.
ARC by Edelweiss.
by Mary Roach
I love Mary Roach's books! I always learn, laugh, get a little grossed out, and am surprised by her tenacity. In this book we find out how different animals and plants are a danger to us but we are the ones to blame. She doesn't say that but when you
I found the tree section a bit boring and a lot of other sections have been covered on nature shows but she goes beyond this. She goes to a class to figure out how to tell if a human, bear, or cougar killed a person based on the marks on the body! Like I said, tenacity!
another diverting read from Mary Roach. The first chapter (when animals maul/maim) is fascinating but somewhat unpleasant; the rest of the book (dealing with lesser crimes and misdemeanors) is equally
I could write more about the specifics, but if you're interested in animals and humans (also animals, of course), you should just read her book. I learned a bunch of interesting trivia, had some of my assumptions and beliefs challenged, and added a few new things to be worried about.
So this is about what happens when animals and humans have a hard time co-existing—which basically means when animals being animals inconvenience (or worse)
I don't think it was as amusing as Roach tried to make it. It was interesting, but it went on too long and therefore became less-interesting the longer it went on. I don't remember anything more specific than that—which says something about the book. It just didn't hold my attention for long.
This is my first Mary Roach book—and maybe would've been my last if I hadn't run into a couple of other bloggers who are Roach fans that were as tepid as I was about the book. Still, I'm going to get a bit more distance between this book and my next.
The book veers from its original topic. Given the title, I was expecting the book to examine examples of legal cases where animals were accused of crimes, or where
But the bulk of the book is actually about pest control, and various approaches to keeping everything from bears to monkeys to mice away from humans and their food. Roach focuses on the search for humane methods to control animal populations, but there is also considerable discussion of what happens when humans try to kill large numbers of animals (it usually doesn't go as planned).
Roach ultimately argues that it's usually more successful to try to find ways of peacefully coexisting than to control or kill wild animals.
Abu Huraira* reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A man suffered from thirst while he was walking on a journey. When he found a well, he climbed down into it and drank from it. Then he came out
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6009, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2244
* Abu Huraira was a reliable reporter from the companions of the prophet peace and blessings be upon him and them. Wikipedia says he was named Abu Huraira “in reference to his attachment to cats,” but the accurate story is that he raised a kitten by keeping it in his sleeve, and people started to call him thus. One of those things that has to happen to you before you understand….Abu Huraira was a source of broad Islamic science, but this would have been relevant given the book’s title. I have a sense that that kitten was the one who settled upon the reporter, not the other way around. In Islam buying and selling of pets is discouraged, putting a purely monetary value on Allah’s creation isn’t appropriate.
In Islam, if you can define “pests” as such you can exterminate them, albeit humanly and without using fire. Only Allah [The Most Glorified, the Most High] penalizes with fire. I know Muslims who will not use pest zappers because of this.
The book itself wanders at times. The ricin arguments weren’t applicable, for me, because the cases cited were of humans seeking a natural product, both separate and isolated from nature’s agency. It would have perhaps been more appropriate to say…. some plants that we as humans are often urged to eat may even contain cyanide (in the plant section), for example the seeds of some fruits. Or some other thing along the lines of the unexpected toxicity of some plants. There, it would have been nature exceeding the limits we would like it to stay within.
There is a liberal use of the theory of evolution. For one thing, the theory of evolution is just that, a theory. But more importantly, evolutionary ideas are operating on such a macro, massive level, that they are almost inhuman is span. We, human, live for a century or so on average, why should we be repeatedly cognizant and meditative of what we ultimately will not control? “Theories” that rely largely on “belief” are ineffective “science” at best.
And yet…And yet, I might have overlooked all that, and chosen this book as ‘one of the best’ this year but for the obscenity, which for me always weighs, in measures and magnitudes, unfavorably. I nearly never can exempt it, when reading is bad for you.
In her introduction she states that she's starting with the felonious crimes first: those incidents, usually bear/cougar/mountain lion, where people are mortally wounded, and ends the book with the crimes more akin to nuisances; crop theft, stealing food, etc.
It probably says something about me that I found the first half much easier to read than the second half - or maybe not. The crimes may be 'lesser' but the punishments meted out by people most definitely are not. Humanity's ability to embrace wholesale slaughter is depressing.
The author manages to end the book on a hopeful note, and while the writing isn't always even (sometimes the humour is a tad over-done), I learned a lot and sometimes I was entertained (usually by the way the author can laugh at herself). Her writing isn't for everyone, but for those that enjoy bit of entertaining and informative science journalism, her books usually deliver.
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law
Mary Roach, Sep 2021, W.W. Norton & Company
Themes: science, social
FUZZ explores the science of human-wildlife interaction and conflict. Combining the disciplines of human behavior and wildlife biology, Roach shares fascinating and often humorous examples of the challenges of human-nature coexistence.
Take-aways: Roach’s conversational style is always popular with young adults and educators alike. From connections with bears and elephants to monkeys and trees, each chapter shares a short, engaging narrative that helps readers understand the complex relationships between nature and humans.
Animals have no way to pay fines or make restitution and we have more than enough of them imprisoned already. Our alternatives are to kill them, trap and move them, and subject them to birth control or sterilization. Roach describes each of these methods and outcomes in detail in her trademark playful and inquisitive writing style. What they all have in common is that they are expensive government endeavors that don't work and often even backfire.
Is there a way to coexist?
Mary Roach investigates in various countries to find lawbreaking animals and meet the people who are trying to deal with them, and the people who are adding to the issues and in some cases, actually exacerbating them. The animals are not encroachers so much as encroachees; worldwide, we are more and more moving into and destroying their habitat after all. Are there any viable solutions that respect the other inhabitants of the planet?
Fuzz is fascinating, quirky, and far too short. I loved the leopards, elephants, and bears (oh my) but couldn't Roach have included a chapter on snakes in swimming pools? Deadly insects in patio umbrellas? Alligators in the middle of golf courses? Will there be a sequel?
This is kind of a tough book, in the sense
Advanced Readers's Copy provided by Edelweiss.
Thanks to the author, WW Norton, and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Mary
In “Fuzz” (2021) Roach turns her attention to the eternal struggle of humans versus animals,
In their quest for easy food, bears wander into homes and supermarkets, and this problem sends her to the Canadian Rockies. Elephants kill a lot more people than bears or lions do, so Roach goes to India to see attempts at a solution. At the Vatican she explores what's being done, in a very Christian way, to battle bothersome gulls and rats.
Animal behavior interests Roach, but she is even more interested in how scientists and others are trying to solve these problems without going to the extreme of killing troublesome animals. Scientists, for example, are looking for a way to get mice to produce only male babies. And what might the unintended consequences be if these experiments prove successful? She asks about that, too.
Scarecrows don't really work, or at least not for long. Smart birds soon realize that a scarecrow means food, so it actually attracts them. What will scare them away? Noise? Motion? Dead birds? Scientists are looking into all these things.
Roach is as much a humorist as she is a science writer, and her books never fail to be as fun as they are informative. Readers, in fact, may be more likely to take away odd bits of amusing trivia from “Fuzz” than anything else. (Much of this is to found in footnotes, so don't ignore them.) For example:
There is such a thing as a chicken gun, but it's not for shooting chickens. Rather it's for shooting supermarket chickens at plane engines to test the effects of bird strikes.
As dangerous as elephants can be when they're sober, they are even more dangerous when drunk. And they like to get drunk.
The Vatican is the only nation in the world where no one has ever been born.
When you were a kid you probably came across books with titles like “Science Can Be Fun.” Mary Roach proves again and again that that is true.