March 28, 2008

Book Review - Do (Not) Feed the Bears

Do (Not) Feed the Bears: The Fitful History of Wildlife and Tourists in Yellowstone
Alice Wondrak Biel
QL 737 .C27 W65 2006

This book takes a humorous approach to the serious topic of human interaction with wildlife, particularly in Federal parks. Biel traces the origins of popular feelings about bears, discussing how zoos, circuses, and television have portrayed bears as nearly tame. She explains how it was common practice, almost a requirement to use food to bring bears close when visiting Yellowstone National Park. As people's ideas about nature changed during the 20th century, so also did the mission and goals of the National Park Service shift. Beyond seeing their role as caretakers of preserved lands used for recreation, the Park Service also began to see itself as conservators and protectors of the land and wildlife who lived on it. Armed with scientific research, the Park Service sought to educate people about the species and their habitats. This is a fascinating study about the shifting American ideas about the environment made approachable by focusing on feelings about bears.