cover image The Age of Deer: Trouble and Kinship with Our Wild Neighbors

The Age of Deer: Trouble and Kinship with Our Wild Neighbors

Erika Howsare. Catapult, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64622-134-9

Poet and journalist Howsare (How Is Travel a Folded Form?) serves up a poignant meditation on humanity’s relationship with deer. Examining the animal’s cultural significance throughout history, Howsare notes that medieval Europeans believed deer had magical properties (burning antlers were believed to deter snakes) and that Cherokee hunters thought an “eternal figure who represents all deer” would give them rheumatism if they didn’t perform a forgiveness ritual after killing deer. Contending that deer “embody binaries,” Howsare thoughtfully probes humanity’s contradictory treatment of them. One piece profiles a wildlife rehabilitator who takes in injured fawns reported by concerned civilians, while another recounts initiatives to cull deer populations across the U.S. because of “rage over landscape damage, disgust over pathogens, and fear over traffic accidents.” The prose is elegant (“The buck seemed to flicker between life and death right there on the leaves. He was so beautiful and whole, but so still,” Howsare writes of a deer fatally wounded by a hunter), and her lyrical musings cast her subject in a new light, as when she describes deer as “mashup-makers, remixers, [and] shape-shifters” for their skill at adapting to diverse environments: “What animal could be a more perfect emblem for our own selves? Our precarious, fluctuating state?” Readers will be enthralled. Photos. (Jan.)