In the fall of 2007 in southern New Hampshire, the acorn crop failed and the animals who depended on it faced starvation. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas began leaving food in small piles around her farmhouse. Soon, she had over 30 deer coming to her fields, and her naturalist’s eye was riveted. How did they know when to come, all together, and why did they sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete?
Throughout the next 12 months she observed the local deer families as they fought through a rough winter, bred fawns in the spring, fended off coyotes, a bobcat, a bear, and plenty of hunters, and made it to the next fall when the acorn crop was back to normal. As she hiked through her woods, spotted tree rubbings, deer beds, and deer yards, she discovered a vast hidden world.
Just as she did in her beloved books The Hidden Life of Dogs and Tribe of Tiger, Thomas describes a network of rules that have allowed earth’s species to coexist for millions of years. Most of us have lost touch with these rules, yet they are a deep part of us, too, from our ancient evolutionary past. The Hidden Life of Deer is a narrative masterpiece and a naturalist’s delight.