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Monday, November 12, 2018

Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Change, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife. By Amy Cherrix. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. $26.99 ages 12 and up

"Favorite part of the bear 
study:The overwhelming 
support for the project by the citizens of Asheville. We connect with homeowners on a daily basis. We hear their personal bear stories, answer their questions about the animal ... (Nick Gould)."

As I so often have been, I was amazed to read this book and discover the goings-on in Asheville, North Carolina. What a study it is and how wonderful that many of the residents are living peacefully side by side with a growing black bear population!

The leader of the group of scientists studying the bears is Colleen Olfenbuttel. She is a biologist and professor at N.C. State University. The team does what field teams are tasked with doing - capturing and tagging the bears so they can keep a close watch on them. Many have been fitted with radio collars which help to follow them.

The author, a resident of Asheville, shares a personal and warmhearted view for her audience, as she writes about the scientists and the bears themselves. She accompanies the team on two up-close-and-personal encounters with bears. Many of the full-color photos are the work of a local wildlife photographer, Steve Atkins, adding another level of care and concern for some of the city's wild creatures. The photos allow readers to see the beauty of the landscape, where and how the bears live in backyards, and the many bears who make their homes there.

Ms. Cherrix offers much additional information regarding the life of the black bear itself. She writes about the way in which bears have become a part of the Asheville landscape as they adapt to habitat changes and the willingness of the human population to do their best to adapt themselves. She offers some advice on what to do should you encounter a bear. She also relates a list of places throughout the world where humans have learned to live with various animal species, including coyotes in the United States, feral chickens in Hawaii, boars in Berlin, and turkeys in Boston.

"As the well-fed birds evolved, they grew stronger and
better able to tolerate New England's harsh winters.
Eventually they migrated to the lush green spaces of
neighborhoods and city parks, doing their part to gobble
up insect pests that bother people."

This is a terrific addition to the always popular and well-written series. Back matter includes a glossary, a list of notes, a selected bibliography, an author's note, and an index. In case this is your first encounter with the Scientists in the Field: Where Science Meets Adventure series, the publishers have provided a comprehensive list of previously published works, and a website:

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