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Where the Wild Things Were cover

Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a
Land of Vanishing Predators

By William Stolzenburg



"Stolzenburg narrates these cautionary tales with a conservationist's attention to ecological detail and a childlike reverence for flesh-tearing beasts. His infectious enthusiasm should spark even in bug-wary urbanites a renewed appreciation for nature's complexity." —Alex Altman, Time magazine

“Science writing at its best. Big, fierce animals have a noble champion in William Stolzenburg.” —Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“Riveting storytelling combined with enough last-minute twists to startle even the most knowledgeable reader. Required reading.” — J. Christopher Haney, Chief Scientist and Vice President of Conservation Science and Economics, Defenders of Wildlife

“A dramatic, comprehensive look at the yin and yang interrelated species perform. The survival of the fittest really does depend on all creatures great and small.” – Alyne Ellis, AARP Radio

“With a lucid and sparkling voice, William Stolzenburg explains clearly why we need the wolf, tiger, and other predators, large and small, to maintain a healthy environment.” —George B. Schaller, Vice President of Science and Exploration, Wildlife Conservation Society

"An absorbing and delightful work of natural history. One of those rare books that provide not just an enriching story, but a new, clarifying lens through which to understand the world around us." —Thomas Hayden, Christian Science Monitor

“In dazzling descriptions…rich in dramatic accounts of life and death in the wild …[ Where the Wild Things Were ] is  powerful and compelling.” —Publishers Weekly [starred review]

"Remarkably engaging." —Bill McKibben, The Boston Globe

“With the tension of a mystery novel…Where the Wild Things Were makes a thought-provoking argument that the top predators who capture our imagination also ensure that the planet teems with life." -- Angie Drobnic Holan, St. Petersburg Times

“Where the Wild Things Were is everything that’s good in a science book: clear, understandable prose; a reasoned, logical argument and a subject that is both compelling and fascinating. It’s well worth your time." --James Neal Webb, Quincy Public Library

“While the history behind the plummeting numbers of the world’s most feared flesh-eaters would make Stolzenburg’s book well worth its weight in pages, his vivid and animated portraits of the evolutionary biologists whose passion and meticulous scholarship drives the book are even more captivating.” --Eric Larson, Conscious Choice magazine

“An easy and fun read about the role predators play in keeping ecosystems in balance. I highly recommend it!" --Mark Tercek, President, The Nature Conservancy

“A deft and engaging exploration of the ecological power of predation." --Michelle Nijhuis, High Country News

“It's gripping, important, and a helluva good read…. The characters jump right off the page… A home run.” —Scott Weidensaul, Naturalist, author, and Pulitzer-Prize finalist

“It is the mind of a scientist, tamed by the prose of a romantic!” —Francesca Roberts, former correspondent, NBC News

“A passionately rendered update on our faltering environmental stability.” Kirkus Reviews

"Consider this one essential." [staff pick]

"It's one of the top three or four environmental books I've read in ages….Read it now. Right now. Set down Roth's Indignation, pick up Stolzenburg's debut." —Weston Cutter, Corduroy

"Wildlife managers need a jolt of stiff science. Alpha predator recovery is no longer a matter of redemption; it is an ecological imperative. For my part, I'll start by recommending Where The Wild Things Were to anyone willing to listen." —Chris Spatz, President, Eastern Cougar Foundation

"The captivating prose will introduce readers to species of animals they've never heard of, as well as give a greater awareness and appreciation for the complexity of the world in which we live. Highly recommended." —Kyrille Goldbeck, Library Journal [starred review]

"In this brilliant melding of biography, natural history, and scientific experiment, Stolzenburg describes how a handful of maverick ecologists upended the theory, proving that top predators also shape the populations beneath. If wolves in Manhattan sounds terrifying, Stolzenburg makes clear that a world without carnivores is actually much scarier." —Seed magazine

“I want to say this thoughtfully:  Where the Wild Things Were is one of the most fascinating and well-written books I have read in years. It is wonderful. I can't believe anyone interested in nature or wild places would find it otherwise. It kept me turning from tale to tale, from one compelling personality to the next, and saddened by coming to the end. A beautiful book.” —Michael L. Andrews, Vice President and Senior Conservation Fellow, The Nature Conservancy

"This is a masterpiece." —Mark S. Garland, Naturalist and columnist, Birder's Bookshelf

"A profoundly thoughtful account of the importance of native carnivores —and the consequences that follow their loss.... A must read for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation." —Suzanne Asha Stone, Northern Rockies Wolf Conservation Specialist, Defenders of Wildlife

"So eloquently, creatively, and provocatively conveyed. It’s not often that I feel compelled to read aloud passages, but with The Wild Things I did this many times." —Karen Anspacher-Meyer, Executive Director, Green Fire Productions

"The stories are fascinating and Stolzenburg makes the tales come to life. Part history, part mystery, part philosophical treatise, Where the Wild Things Were is an important book in the field of conservation, but also as a history of our species and our relationship with the others with which we share the planet." —Scott Edward Anderson, The Green Skeptic

"Example after example, many of them cinematic, all of them engrossing." —Anthony Doerr, The Boston Globe, July 20, 2008

"Beautiful — and haunting." —Juliet Eilperin, National Public Radio, Living on Earth

"Required reading for every citizen." —Josh Donlan, Founder and Director, Advanced Conservation Strategies

"Challenging and provocative. A humbling yet hopeful book." —Barnes & Noble, Discover Great New Writers

"Where the Wild Things Were may sound like an elegy, but it reads like a mystery. While skeptics wonder if we can afford to welcome top predators back into the fold, Stolzenburg asks if we can afford not to."
—Jennifer Winger, Nature Conservancy magazine


[in the news]

Rat Island cover
Read about Will's new book.

Will Stolzenburg selected as Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellow for 2010. Click here to read the announcement

Best Books 2008, Library Journal (see the entire Library Journal list)

Where the Wild Things Were has been chosen as a New Favorite at Powell's Books. Read the original essay here.

Selected for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers series. Read the review.

To schedule an event or media appearance, contact Will Stolzenburg, or Carrie Majer, Bloomsbury USA


April 27: Keynote Speaker: NatureServe Conservation Conference, Biodiversity Without Boundaries, Austin TX (Click here for details)

April 22: Keynote Speaker: Earth Day Celebration, North Carolina Center for Biodiversity, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. (Click here for details.)

March 24: Panelist for D.C. premiere of film, Lords of Nature, Washington D.C. (Click here for details)

March 11: Lecture, Howard County Conservancy, Woodstock, MD. (Click here for details)


November 21: Interview with Scott Shalaway, The Wild Side, 1370 WVLY, Wheeling WV (10 A.M. ET). Click here to listen.

November 22: Interview with Scott Shalaway, Birds & Nature, 1360 WMNY, Pittsburgh (1 P.M. ET) Click here to listen.

November 7: Guest lecture and book signing,
American Conservation Film Festival
Shepherdstown, WV
Click here for Festival information

October 12: Lecture, Audubon Naturalist Society Annual Meeting
Chevy Chase, MD
Click here for details

August 21: Keynote Lecture,
STEM educators' convention,
Sykesville, MD
Click here for details

May 28: Lecture, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC
Click here for details

February 21: Lecture, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Conference, Flagstaff, Arizona

January 15: Lecture, The Nature Conservancy’s Legacy Club.


December 6: Book signing at the War Memorial Building, Shepherdstown, WV (11:00-2:00 P.M.)

November 8: Lecture at the American Conservation Film Festival, Byrd Auditorium, National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, WV (2:30-3:15 P.M.)

September 18: Lecture at the National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, WV (7-8 P.M., EDT)

September 18: Televised interview with Mark Madison at National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, WV (1-2 P.M., EDT). Click here for satellite downlink instructions.

September 13: Book signing at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC (2-4 P.M., EDT)

September 10: Interview with Melinda Bernerts, "Speaking of Animals," KBOO (90.7 FM), Portland, OR. (9:30 A.M., PDT)

September 9: Interview with  Kojo Nnamdi, “The Kojo Nnamdi Show,” WAMU (88.5 FM), Washington, DC (1 P.M., EDT) (listen to the Kojo Nnamdi Show interview)

September 8: Interview with Keith Henty, "The Jefferson Exchange," Jefferson Public Radio, Ashland, Oregon, (8 A.M. PDT) for list of affiliate stations, click here

July 28: Interview with Krys Boyd, host of “Think,” KERA (90.1 FM), Dallas/Ft. Worth. Listen to the Krys Boyd podcast

July 25: Interview with Bert Gambini on “BookTV,” C-SPAN2. (Check back for air date.)

July 25: Interview with Bert Gambini, host of “Meet the Author,” WBFO (88.7 FM), Buffalo. (Listen to the Bert Gambini interview)

July 21: Interview with Katie Britton, host of “Roundtable,” WAMC (90.3 FM), Albany, NY.  Listen to the Katie Britton podcast


Valley of Fear

In its meandering path across the northern tier of Yellowstone National Park, the Lamar River emerges from a mountain canyon upon a lofty valley of grass and sage. There it flows through what many eyes perceive as the premier wildlife panorama of the Lower 48. The Lamar Valley is the place to find the grizzly pawing through the summer grasses, to hear the bison bulls bashing heads in the September rut, to scan the sere valley plains and hillsides flashing yellow with the rumps of grazing elk. The coyote pouncing for voles in the grass, the pronghorn antelope galloping over the sage flats—the reasons the asphalt two-lane that snakes across the Lamar terrace so often crawls with sightseers —had little to do with Robert Beschta's astonishment upon his first visit in the spring of 1996. A hydrologist from Oregon State University, Beschta had walked straight from the tour road to the banks of the Lamar, eyes fixed on the river itself. Or rather, from Beschta's frame of reference, what was left of it.  

“I was dumbfounded how bad it was,” said Beschta. “Just dumbfounded.” The banks of the Lamar were barren, steep, and saw-edged. Soils that had been building for millennia had in recent decades been sluicing seaward with every rush of spring snowmelt and summer cloudburst. Few trees, no underbrush, no canopy, no shade, meant lost habitat for birds. It meant no more beavers that had once built ponds there, nor the flush of life that typically followed. “The stream,” said Beschta, “was falling apart.”

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