Foxes, buzzards, crows, badgers, weasels, seals, gulls, kites – Britain and Ireland's predators are impressive and diverse and they capture our collective imagination. But many consider them to our competition, even our enemies.
The problem is that predators eat what we farm or use for sport. From foxes and ravens attacking new-born lambs to weasels eating game-bird chicks, predators compete with us, putting them directly into the firing line. Farming, fishing, sport and leisure industries want to see numbers of predators reduced, and conservation organisations also worry that predators are threatening some endangered species. Other people, though, will go to great lengths to protect them from any harm. This clashing of worlds can be intense. So, what do we do? One of the greatest challenges facing conservation today is how, when and where to control predators. It is a highly charged debate.
Mary Colwell travels across the UK and Ireland to encounter the predators face to face. She watches their lives in the wild and discovers how they fit into the landscape. She talks to the scientists studying them and the wildlife lovers who want to protect them. She also meets the people who want to control them to protect their livelihoods or sporting interests.
In this even-handed exploration of the issues, Mary provides a thoughtful and reasoned analysis of the debates surrounding our bittersweet relationship with predators.
Mary Colwell is a producer and writer and author of two books, John Muir: The Scotsman Who Saved America's Wild Places (2014) and Curlew Moon (2018). In 2017 she was awarded the BTO Dilys Breese Medal for outstanding Communication in Science and in 2018 she won the National Gamekeepers Association Bellamy Award for nature conservation for her work on curlews. She has organised four national conferences on curlew conservation which have bought together a wide range of people from across the conservation spectrum. She is listed in the top 50 most influential conservationists in Britain by BBC Wildlife Magazine. She has written for the Guardian, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Country Life and many others. She makes nature documentaries for BBC Radio 3 and 4 and is a public speaker on the natural world and environmental issues.
"[...] Mary Colwell’s latest is brave, thoughtful, sympathetic and well written, with pardonable lapses into Wildwatch-speak (‘Is our heart wild enough to beat alongside that of a lynx?’). It is as good a summary of the joys and griefs of living with predators that I have read, partly because Mary Colwell does not hide her feelings. She takes us with her but leaves a well-mannered space for our own."
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 32(7), June 2021
"Provocative, thought provoking and life affirming. Mary Colwell enters a world steeped in blood, much of it on our hands. A masterpiece of Conservation writing"
– Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project
"This fascinating – and balanced – book wrestles with our confused, paradoxical relationship with predators [...] and argues that our relationship with them needs to be evaluated within the context of its history"
– The Field
"There are few more fraught topics than the status of Britain's larger predators [...] It takes immense courage to be a voice of calm [...] and once again Mary Colwell has stepped up to the mark. There is much to learn from this book"
– BBC Wildlife
"Colwell seeks to steer those who legally cull predators towards a more thoughtful stance, while urging others to understand why predators have to be managed"
– BBC Countryfile magazine
"This book made me question what I thought that I knew about species ranging from seals to wolves"
– BTO magazine
"An engaging, balanced and wise book on a contested subject [...] A lesson both in open-mindedness and in sweet reason"
–Jeremy Mynott, author of Birdscapes
"A brave book [...] that seeks out a fair-minded variety of opinions [...] thoroughly researched, indexed and annotated [...] this honest scrutiny of our relationship with middle-sized British predators is timely, informative and necessary"
– Juliet Blaxford