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‘Wild new World’ explores where we came from, where we may be headed


“Wild New World: The Epic Story Of Animals And People In America,” is a dense, fact filled book by regional author Dan Flores. It is his 13th book, which will inform and enlighten readers.

Flores is an A.B. Hammond Professor Emeritus of Western American History and is retired from the University of Montana. He has done extensive travel and research and knows what he is talking about when it comes to the making of America as it is today.

He begins this journey with readers back before America was even one continent and not separated by the Western Interior Seaway. There had already been four extinctions on the planet when the next significant one occurred more than 60 million years ago. Earth’s fifth extinction event, Chicxulub the asteroid, impacted the planet causing a crater more than 120 miles wide and 18 miles deep. Readers can observe the evidence today in Arizona, where the remaining crater exists. This extraordinary event eradicated all but 25% of life on Earth.

Five million years later, America, through an uplift, became a solid continent. Life returned in the form of many animals. America was populated with a vast number of animals that are extinct today. At one point, these lands were alive with mastodons, mammoths, camels, dire wolves, horses, short-faced bears, large cats – which included saber toothed tigers, giant ground sloths, llamas and many more. Then over 13,000 years ago, the Clovis people and their culture were the first to spread throughout America. This was the arrival of an apex predator: humans.

Post Pleistocene Native American tribes spread throughout America and influenced by the local landscapes and flora and fauna adapted and developed differing customs and characteristics. Hunting and gathering traditions were also dictated and evolved depending on the availability of local prey.

If you go

WHAT: Author event and book-signing with Dan Flores, author of "Wild New World.“

WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday.

WHERE: Maria’s Bookshop, 960 Main Ave.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit https://bit.ly/40QpvY0.

First contact by Europeans in the 1500s was the death knell for America’s fauna and even some flora. It also caused the deaths of shocking numbers of First/Native Americans. Modern estimates say that 90% died quickly in the first century after first contact. “Old Worlders” brought diseases that the Natives, who had been isolated, had no resistance to survive.

Old Worlders were amazed by the number and variety of wildlife in America. In the Old World of Europe, only the privileged nobles were able to hunt animals. Poachers were severely punished. When common folk arrived and were met with the ability to hunt at will, they quickly began the death of many mammals and birds. When some realized that the slaughter was wiping out whole populations, the colonists decried the attempt to limit their newly acquired “freedom” to hunt at will.

Another practice that led to the decimation of bears, white-tailed deer and especially beavers was the European desire for status and fashion. Beaver hats, fur coats and leather attire led the demand, causing millions of deaths. This demand even secured the aid of Native Americans to provide dead animals. In exchange, the Natives received fabrics, tools and a new scourge, alcohol, which helped the Old Worlders get their cooperation.

Flores relates this huge body of information about the birth of America with both style and clarity. He also weaves in his personal experiences while visiting important locations from historic events.

Flores’ “Wild New World” is an impressive accomplishment that imparts an amazing amount of fascinating facts about our land. It enlightens readers about where we came from and where we might be headed in the future. The sixth extinction is upon us, and only humans have the ability to try to ameliorate the potential effect on the entire Earth. If only we can learn from the past.

“Wild New World” is a compelling and comprehensive read.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher and freelance writer.