‘Split Rock’ provides a guided tour of wildlife corridor
What started out as a blog on wildlife and the Adirondacks has been turned into a book that will take readers on a walk through the Split Rock Wildway, a loose collection of public and private land that connects the Champlain Valley with the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.
“Split Rock Wildway: Scouting the Adirondack Park’s Most Diverse Wildlife Corridor” by John Davis is a collection of essays on everything from big cats to bats to human-wildlife interaction in the corridor. The book is part advocacy, part field guide and park ecological education.
“The most diverse wildlife corridor in the largest park in the richest state in the most powerful nation in the history of life on Earth,” is how Davis describes the wildway.
“The subtitle above may flirt with hyperbole, but Split Rock Wildway and the much larger Adirondack Park of which it is a part are in fact bold, monumental efforts toward reconnecting wild habitats and stabilizing climate,” Davis writes.
While steeped in natural history and biology, Davis claims from the start that he is no expert in all of these subjects. Rather, the essays are informed by his walks and talks with naturalists, biologists and ecologists.
In addition to offering insights on the lives of bobcats and coywolves, turtles and songbirds, eels and roadkill, Davis also includes what he sees as necessary steps to promote wildlife in the area. Davis does not hide his agenda, which clearly calls for more wildlife, including the introduction of extirpated predators.
“If this book does its job, it will strengthen support both for conservation of the beautiful animals still here and restoration of the species we unkindly eliminated in the past,” Davis writes in the lead up to the first section, titled “Big and Toothy Animals.”
In the first essay, Davis says that peoples’ fear of large predators is misplaced, arguing that whitetail deer, which are quite prevalent around the state, are overabundant due to a lack of wolves and cougars — two species which used to roam the Adirondacks, and, depending on who you talk to, may still. But Davis cites mislaid fears, noting that Americans should be scared of things that actually pose a threat.
“All the wild carnivores in North America combined do not kill as many people as do domestic dogs,” he writes. “Cars kill thousands of times as many people as do animals.
“The animal that kills the most people in the United States now is deer — our elimination of native predators having allowed prey numbers to soar past natural levels, resulting in countless, sometimes fatal, collisions between cars and wildlife.”
To Davis, the solution to this issue is quite obvious.
“Carnivores will enhance public health in several ways: wolves and cougars will trim the deer population, which at present is unnaturally abundant in many parts of the East,” he says. “In addition to inadvertently killing scores of Americans a year in collisions with cars, deer are also vectors for black-legged ticks, which carry Lyme disease and other afflictions.”
As an ode to wildlife, both here and gone, Wildway is wonderful read that goes from big picture to close up seamlessly.
While Davis’ pro-wildlife stances may turn off some people, Davis makes a solid case for his views and one can easily look past the politics of big carnivores and find plenty to enjoy and learn about this unique wildlife corridor.