Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law - book cover
Science & Math
Biological Sciences
  • Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company
  • Published : 14 Sep 2021
  • Pages : 320
  • ISBN-10 : 1324001933
  • ISBN-13 : 9781324001935
  • Language : English

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

An Instant New York Times Bestseller • #1 Los Angeles Times Bestseller • #1 Indie Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller • Longlisted for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • A New York Times Editors' Choice • A Washington Post Notable Book of 2021 • A Goodreads Choice Award Finalist • An NPR 2021 Best Book • A New York Public Library 2021 Best Book

Join "America's funniest science writer" (Peter Carlson, Washington Post), Mary Roach, on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet.

What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and "danger tree" faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter's Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque.

Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature's lawbreakers. When it comes to "problem" wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem―and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.

12 illustrations

Editorial Reviews

Mary Roach is the author of five best-selling works of nonfiction, including Grunt, Stiff, and, most recently, Fuzz. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications. She lives in Oakland, California.

Readers Top Reviews

Donald A. Hershberge
Mary, as is her habit, has covered the topic until I know too much already. I particularly enjoy her sense of noting that which is normally unsaid but needs to be. God bless Mary Roach!
Mr. Joe
“Here are some species the EPA, the USDA, and the Department of Health and Human Services consider ‘pests’: chipmunks, bears, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks, flying squirrels, tree squirrels, little brown bats, rattlesnakes, coral snakes, cliff swallows, crows, house finches, turkey vultures, black vultures, and mute swans.” – from FUZZ “Agencies can end up spending as much money tracking down the last ten of an invasive species – and monitoring for eleven, twelve, thirteen – than they spent eradicating the first ten thousand.” – from FUZZ Author Mary Roach is a national treasure. Her books, probably best classed as “popular science,” which describe the condition of the human species and the interactions of its members with aspects of their environment, are penned with a wink and a nod to send the message that her observations should be taken seriously – but not too seriously. FUZZ: WHEN NATURE BREAKS THE LAW is told in a slightly more somber tone because the topic includes the eradication of other creatures with whom we inhabit Earth. Still, it has its lighter moments. The content of FUZZ seems to generally classify unfuzzy human and animal/plant interactions into three categories: 1) fatal, e.g., bears, elephants, and big cats attacking/killing people, 2) Irksome, e.g., monkeys, various bird species, and mice wreaking havoc on otherwise tidy human environments and possessions, and 3) invasive species introduced by humans into foreign environments for a perceived beneficial purpose that drastically backfires, e.g., rabbits introduced into New Zealand. Trees that kill/injure people by dropping coconuts or cones, or by simply falling over from age, and poisonous plants/seeds that kill when eaten are included in One. For all three categories, the author describes measures being taken or researched to ameliorate the conflicts: traps, animal behavior and genetic modification, translocation, outright killing, and, yes, human behavior modification (i.e., tolerance). In all of this, humor can be found in unlikely places: “Yosemite rangers tried translocating the bears that were breaking into cars, moving them to the other side of the park. The result: car break-ins on the other side of the park.” “The classic cornfield scarecrow may actually attract birds, because they start to associate it with food. To a flock of migrating blackbirds, it’s the golden arches on the side of the highway, the Bob’s Big Boy sign, a reason to pull off for a large, fattening meal.” “The San Francisco Giants baseball team looked into hiring a falconer to deter the hot dog–crazed flock of gulls that circles the stadium in the ninth inning, defecating on fans and every now and then dropping down to interrupt play.” “In parts of New Zealand’s South Island you run across signs warning of the dangers of “wilding conifers.” Pine t...
Jan Dziekan
Animals don’t follow human laws. They just do what they always did, “unfortunately in some cases, trying to do it too close to people being people”. This idea seems evident, perhaps, to the point of being overlooked in our everyday lives. We may care more and more about the welfare of domesticated animals - and it’s great to treat them humanely, especially in the context of meat production - but I believe that less thought is put into the effects of humans encroaching on habitats of wild animals. Humans need space, nature has to cope and in some places it leads to conflicts. From bears plundering garbage bins to birds damaging plane engines, Mary Roach wrote a fascinating, intelligent and highly entertaining book on many forms of human-nature tensions happening on “our” turf and what can be done about them. Believe me, there are no easy solutions.