Wahb: The Biography of a Grizzly

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University of Oklahoma Press, Jul 30, 2015 - Nature - 240 pages

First published more than a century ago, The Biography of a Grizzly recounts the life of a fictitious bear named Wahb who lived and died in the Greater Yellowstone region. This new edition combines Ernest Thompson Seton’s classic tale and original illustrations with historical and scientific context for Wahb’s story, providing a thorough understanding of the setting, cultural connections, biology, and ecology of Seton’s best-known book.

By the time The Biography of a Grizzly was published in 1900, grizzly bears had been hunted out of much of their historical range in North America. The characterization of Wahb, along with Seton’s other anthropomorphic tales of American wildlife, helped to change public perceptions and promote conservation. As editors Jeremy M. Johnston and Charles R. Preston remind us, however, Seton’s approach to writing about animals put him at the center of the “Nature-Faker” controversy of the early twentieth century, when John Burroughs and Theodore Roosevelt, among others, denounced sentimental representations of wildlife.

The editors address conservation scientists’ continuing concerns about inaccurate depictions of nature in popular culture. Despite its anthropomorphism, Seton’s paradoxical book imparts a good deal of insightful and accurate natural history, even as its exaggerations shaped early-twentieth-century public opinion on conservation in often counterproductive ways. By complicating Seton’s enthralling tale with scientific observations of grizzly behavior in the wild, Johnston and Preston evaluate the story’s accuracy and bring the story of Yellowstone grizzlies into the present day.

Preserving the 1900 edition’s original design and illustrations, Wahb brings new understanding to an American classic, updating the book for current and future generations.
 

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An absolutely wonderful story that will forever hold a place in my heart

Contents

List of Photographs
Introduction by Jeremy M Johnston
The Cubhood of Wahb
CHAPTER 3
The Days of His Strength
CHAPTER 10
CHAPTER 13
Annotations to Wahb
Afterword by Charles R Preston
Copyright

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About the author (2015)

Ernest Thompson Seton (1860–1946) was a British-born author, wildlife artist, cofounder of the Boy Scouts of America, and an early pioneer of the modern school of animal fiction writing whose best-known book is Wild Animals I Have Known.

Jeremy M. Johnston is Curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Western American History, and Managing Editor of The Papers of William F. Cody at the McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming.

Charles R. Preston is the Willis McDonald, IV, Senior Curator of Natural Science at the Draper Natural History Museum, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming. His publications include Golden Eagle: Sovereign of the Skies (with G. Leppart, photographer) and An Expedition Guide to the Nature of Yellowstone and the Draper Museum of Natural History.

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