BOOKS: The World of the Polar Bear & Among Wild Horses

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2006:

The World of the Polar Bear
by Norbert Rosing
Firefly Books (P.O. Box 1338, Ellicot Station, Buffalo, NY 14205), 2006.
202 pages, hardcover, illust. $45.00.

Among Wild Horses:
A portrait of the Pryor Mountain Mustangs
Photos by Lynne Pomeranz. Text by Rhonda Massingham
Storey Publishing (210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247),
2006. 134 pages, hardcover, illustrated. $16.95.

The World of the Polar Bear and Among Wild Horses are a world
apart from most of the other coffee table books we’ve seen lately.
First of all, the exquisite photos show authentic wild
animals, in panoramic views of the wild, except for some mustangs
in Among Wild Horses who appear to be in a holding corral after a
recent round-up.
Second, the text actually describes what the photos show,
and often explains how the photographer captured the scene. Neither
The World of the Polar Bear nor Among Wild Horses is a recycled
thesis, going into depth and detail about biological facts while
evading the controversies surrounding their subjects.


The World of the Polar Bear and Among Wild Horses largely
save their pleading for the last pages, but both are direct appeals
for animals who are jeopardized by present U.S. policies. Both World
of the Polar Bear author/photographer Norbert Rosing and Among Wild
Horses photographer Lynne Pomeranz make their cases mostly with the
photos and anecdotes that they collected in person during long stays
among their subjects.
As well as capturing almost every aspect of wild polar bear
life, Norbert Rosing provides many memorable shots of the creatures
who share their habitat, especially Arctic foxes, who along with
ravens are polar bears’ frequent sidekicks. Rosing even caught one
Arctic fox in the act of nipping at a polar bear’s heels–perhaps,
Rosing speculated, to urge the bear to go hunt a seal for both of
them. The bear shows no sign of inclination to harm the fox.
Dangerous as polar bears can be, they tend to be more patient and
playful than menacing toward anything that isn’t either potentially
dinner or a serious threat.
The major threat to both polar bears and Arctic foxes these
days is global warming, fast shrinking the bears’ seal hunting
habitat and flooding foxes out of their dens as the permafrost thaws
into vast bogs.
Compared to the Arctic, the Pryor Mountain wild horses
inhabit a veritable Garden of Eden along the Montana/Wyoming border.
The Crow tribe, who share much of the horses’ range, point out that
the habitat in all directions from Pryor Mountain is much less
hospitable.
The Pryor Mountain horses have been protected from roundup
for slaughter since the 1968 creation of the Pryor Mountain Wild
Horse Range, three years before the 1971 passage of the Wild Free
Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Yet the Pryor Mountain mustangs–and
all wild horses–are still at risk as result of federal policies
favoring ranchers, who perceive the mere 40,000 horses still on the
U.S. range as threats to the well-being of more than four million
cattle.
Among Wild Horses opens with Hope Ryden’s account of how her
work as a television reporter helped to save the Pryor Mountain
horses in 1968, and concludes with Rhonda Massingham’s appeal on
their behalf today. “The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range falls under
the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and National
Park Service management, all of which juggle the health and
well-being of the horses there with other values,” Massingham points
out. “Due to these multi-agency and multi-use agendas, the Pryor
Mountain mustangs are restricted to a much smaller, less productive
range than they roamed when the law was passed. The BLM reports that
this area cannot presently sustain the number of horses on the range.”
In recent years the Pryor Mountain horse population has been
controlled by one of the first successful applications of wildlife
contraception.

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