The Age of Deer
Trouble and Kinship with our Wild Neighbors
by Erika Howsare
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Pub Date 02 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 18 Dec 2023
Deer have been an important part of the world that humans occupy for millennia. They’re one of the only large animals that can thrive in our presence. In the 21st century, our relationship is full of contradictions: We hunt and protect them, we cull them from suburbs while making them an icon of wilderness, we see them both as victims and as pests. But there is no doubt that we have a connection to deer: in mythology and story, in ecosystems biological and digital, in cities and in forests.
Delving into the historical roots of these tangled attitudes and how they play out in the present, Erika Howsare observes scientists capture and collar fawns, hunters show off their trophies, a museum interpreter teaching American history while tanning a deer hide, an animal-control officer collecting the carcasses of deer killed by sharpshooters, and a woman bottle-raising orphaned fawns in her backyard. As she reports these stories, Howsare’s eye is always on the bigger picture: Why do we look at deer in the ways we do, and what do these animals reveal about human involvement in the natural world? For readers of H is for Hawk and Fox & I, The Age of Deer offers a unique and intimate perspective on a very human relationship.
“The Age of Deer joins a growing canon of fresh treatments of wild creatures that are anciently enmeshed in the human story. And as Howsare reminds us in her warm, relaxed style, we will always have such a relationship with deer. The next one you see is going to intrigue you in a whole new way.”
—Dan Flores, New York Times bestselling author of Coyote America and Wild New World
“I carried The Age of Deer in my pack for a few days through a canyon in Colorado, and it was a great complement to the lopsided slopes of fallen trees and the sound of roaring water. The deer is due its storyteller and Howsare takes the role with smartness and grace.”
—Craig Childs, author of Tracing Time, House of Rain, and The Secret Knowledge of Water
“In her lyrical and revelatory The Age of Deer, Erika Howsare crafts the definitive account of humanity’s longstanding dependence on the lovely creatures, their prominent place in myth and legend, and our modern failures to live peaceably alongside them. A cautionary (but often beautiful) tale of good intentions gone awry.”
—Earl Swift, author of Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings
“A warm, engaging, and thoughtful look at what matters to deer and what they mean to us. Howsare is fascinated by the paradoxical status of an animal we all think we know: Not tame, but not quite wild either; fetishized by some, resented by others; all too common, and yet impossible to ignore. I highly recommend it!”
—Nate Blakslee, author of American Wolf
“Erika Howsare has written a fascinating and brilliantly researched book on deer. She has an ear for the conundrums and contradictions of our entanglements with these creatures, who increasingly occupy a middle ground between wild and domestic, survivors of our species’ worst predations. This is also a book about nature, culture, and our nationhood—an interrogation of the American project as that story continues to unfold across our deer-happy landscape.”
—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of A Woven World
“By paying close attention to an animal often seen but rarely observed, Howsare reveals that deer are far more mysterious and complicated—and far more deeply embedded in our lives and collective histories—than they may seem. The Age of Deer is a wonderfully perceptive, absorbing, and rewarding exploration of life in all its interconnected forms.”
—Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction
"Extraordinary and absorbing, The Age of Deer proves John Muir’s notion that when we pick out one thing in the universe we find it hitched to everything else. Howsare understands that we live in an age of numbness when ‘few of us are willing to really feel,’ and suggests, through the lives of deer and her experience with them, an elemental antidote.”
—David Gessner, author of Return of the Osprey and All the Wild That Remains