Down from the Mountain

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 May 2019

Member Reviews

As grizzly bears gravitate to agricultural crops in Montana's Mission Valley — especially corn — opportunities for dangerous encounters with people increase. The author's quest to find a solution that protects both people and bears parallels the journey of Millie, a grizzly bear named for Millie's Woods, and her two female cubs. Down from the Mountain's subtitle reveals Millie's fate. Her story "embodies the violence that mankind inflicts everywhere on wilderness and wild creatures." It's a tragic story, to be sure, but one that should be widely read by anyone who cares about nature, wildlife, and the changing American landscape. And I believe that should be all of us. After all, “The climate is changing, and empty places are filling up … and the vessel that holds us cannot grow.”
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Enjoyed the story of Millie and her cubs...but hated what happened to them (and all of wildlife) as man invades their world and how this affects their lives and future. Will we ever learn?
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Mission Hills, Montana, a place that has long harbored and protected grizzlies. Millie's Woods, named after a grizzly who has roamed the woods theere, giving birth to several cubs. As more and more people move into the area, farmers, survivalists, people who just want to be alone, and of course this with no good intention, the grizzlies territory is shrinking. Now they are running into man and what man thinks is his. When the grizzlies discover corn fields, they decide to stay with the protected stalks, eating away, causing huge monetary losses for the farmer. This is a story of Millie, her fate and the fate of her two youngest cubs. A story of those who want to protect these animals, and how they try to do so. 

When an author is do passionate about his subject it is impossible not to be drawn into the story and into his heart. As mankind goes about killing anything that gets in their way, men and women like those in this book, may well be the last defense. If you're an animal lover, an environmentalist, this story will be heartbreaking. 

The author says it best in these words,

 "Knowing how we have misused land and wildlife, I have precious little faith in humankind. I think it likely that we will go on wrecking the beautiful world. But, I put my hope in bears of Baptiste's sort ---hardy, seeking adaptable creatures. They will find away around or through our constructions to places that once belonged to them. Given the merest chance, they will live."

One can only hope.

ARC from Netgalley.
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Confession: I flat-out misread the description of this book, and thought it was a novelization of the life of a bear. Nope. It's a memoir of a rancher/conservationist, about the inevitable conflict between grizzlies and ever increasing numbers of humans in the wilds of Montana. It includes the story of the life of a bear who dies after being shot, but that is more a cautionary tale than a biography. So I was the victim of my own mistaken expectations. That said, this was still worth reading. The prose is clear and tranquil, a pleasure to read. And the author clearly cares very deeply about the subject. Ultimately this never fully grabbed me, but I'm still glad I read it.
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Down from the Mountain is Montana rancher Bryce Andrews' empathetic look at the changing lives of the grizzly bears still common in the wilder parts of the state. Focusing predominantly on a sow called Millie and her two cubs, Andrews details how bears attempting to fatten up for winter have become enticed by the readily available corn that is so heavily produced by dairy and cattle farms. Desperate farmers already working on razor thin margins are then more likely to come into conflict with the endangered bears in a dangerous clash between industry and nature. A former cattle rancher himself who got out of the business after witnessing one too many instances of distress when leading his stock to slaughter, Andrews is well positioned to tell this story. 

Many of the pages in the first half of the book are devoted to Andrews' attempts to build an electrified fence around one of the farmer's cornfields to dissuade the bears from entering. Scattered throughout these descriptions are passages speculating on Millie's early life up to the point where she has cubs of her own. The fence sections are slower, with Andrews still unsure of his place among the bears. He feels drawn to them, in one wild instance describing himself as mysteriously drawn into the cornfield in the hopes of seeing one despite the obvious danger of approaching a sow with cubs.  

The tragedy that strikes Millie and her cubs midway through the book is where Andrews finds his inspiration and voice for the bears. His attempts at helping to find the guilty party and his tireless search for a home for the cubs are admirable, and here his care and empathy for the bears shine through in the prose. Andrews ruminates towards the end about humanity's place in nature, and comes to the depressing (but prescient) conclusion that we will continue to cause harm. 

Down from the Mountain is an important and timely book that shines a light on a cause and effect plight that may not be as well known as it should be. After finishing the book, I was interested enough to search for the Maryland Zoo online, where Millie's two cubs (now with names and quite a lot larger) were relocated and are still living.

***I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.***
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As a bear lover, I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  It was a little bit slow in the beginning
but it just kept getting better and better.  Yes, a bear is injured, but so many are saved
to be able to co-exist with humans.  I loved this book so much, I actually did a search
for a couple of cubs and saw photos of them now.  I want to purchase this book! The 
photos look incredible.
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Highly informative and appealing to both those with an interest in ecology and conservation and those who seek to understand it better.
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Some books tattoo themselves on your heart. Down from the Mountain is one of them. Touching, heartfelt, and engaging, this is a book for all seasons. I know I'm biased as an animal lover toward extreme compassion, but the way Mr. Andrews crafted this tale yanked at my heartstrings. This is a book I want to give people who don't understand why animals are entitled to their natural ranges.
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Great book. Very informative about environmental issues, agriculture, the welfare of animals, poaching, and even the use of herbicides.
The part of the book I was most drawn to was that of the story of Millie though.
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Well written, highly readable book on Western conservation of grizzly bears and the changing environment due to climate and human  behavior.  Beautiful descriptions of the area, of both the different types of people as well as the landscape.  Highly recommend to anyone interested in nature and conservation.
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