Sixty years ago, Dick Dekker immigrated from one of the smallest countries in Europe to the second-largest country in the world – Canada. Dreaming of Canada's wilderness, he risked his life to find wolves and spent half a century watching eagles and falcons for which his native Holland had become too small to support.
The ancient maxim that nature is red in tooth and claw, attributed to Shakespeare, is still true today. But rather than just concentrating on the predators, Dekker's focus is also on the prey species, how deer, ducks, and sandpipers manage to cope with their peril. Hiking and camping in Jasper National Park, he was first to describe that the return of wolves had led to the restoration of the ecological balance between vegetation, grazing elk, and wolves, with beneficial side effects for the intertwined lives of beavers and other wildlife.
His insights became the inspiration for what has since become known as a trophic cascade in Yellowstone. Dekker's detailed studies of the hunting tactics of Peregrine Falcons on ocean coasts and inland lakes are unprecedented. He has recorded more prey captures by wild falcons than anyone else in the published literature. His discoveries and unique observations are narrated in simple yet evocative prose the reader can identify with.
In 2009, Dick Dekker received a PhD in wildlife ecology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He currently resides outside of Edmonton and continues his passions in wildlife observation.
"Dick Dekker provides the reader, be they a naturalist or professional biologist, with an invaluable memoir of a lifetime watching predators in the wild. In a series of vignettes, Dekker shares his adventures, academic insights and opinions into two iconic predators – the Peregrine Falcon and Grey Wolf. These are the joys and rewards of patient observations throughout western Canada, and he teaches us that fear of predators leaves a fingerprint on the behaviors of the prey. The stories will inspire the reader to take a pause, find a good vantage spot, and 'sit quietly by the shore and let the birds come to you."
– Dr. Mark Drever, University of British Columbia
"This book is a tremendous contribution to the biology and historical changes of wildlife in Canada. Few biologists have been as dedicated to field studies as is the case with Dick Dekker. He has been a critical thinker, and followed through, by taking the time to write about it. A book well worth having on a bookshelf for anyone interested in wildlife."
– Dr. Lu Carbyn, Retired Research Scientist, Canadian Wildlife Service, Adjunct Professor, University of Alberta
"Dick Dekker has had a long career as a naturalist, independent researcher, and educator. In this memoir, which is an interesting mix of personal story comingled with natural and human history, he has chronicled his experiences and observations acquired over 60 years while immersed in and interacting with the vibrant and challenging natural reality of a very special place. This special place is the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, where Dr. Dekker introduces us to the lives and interactions of many of the predators and prey that inhabit this wild place, along with a history of some of the concurrent influences and impacts affected by human residence and activity in the region. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this readily accessible and entertaining addition to the long-established discipline of natural history writing."
– Robert Hoffman, Ecologist (retired)