The time: the late 1980s. The place: Boulder, Colorado. When residents report cats as massive as African leopards in their yards and driveways, it becomes clear that mountain lions (cougars, pumas, panthers) are repopulating the land, rebounding after decades of persecution and bounty hunting.
To inhabitants of the environmentally aware city of Boulder, the lions’ return is cause for celebration—initially. As the massive cats take up residence among houses and feast on pets, the animals’ presence turns ominous, provoking political battles and culminating in the unthinkable—the death of a young athlete, hunted by a lion behind a nearby high school.
Here, in a spellbinding tale of man and beast that recalls, only in nonfiction form, Peter Benchley’s thriller Jaws, award-winning journalist David Baron chronicles Boulder’s struggles to coexist with its wild neighbors and reconstructs the paved-with-good-intentions path that led to Colorado’s first recorded fatal mountain lion attack. The book reveals the subtle yet powerful ways in which human actions are altering wildlife behavior.
As thought-provoking as it is harrowing, The Beast in the Garden is a tale of nature corrupted, the clash between civilization and wildness, and the artificiality of the modern American landscape. It is, ultimately, a book about the future of our nation, where suburban sprawl and wildlife-protection laws are pushing people and wild animals into uncomfortable, sometimes deadly proximity.