Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Biology

Naive elk

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Author Joel Berger did an interview last Saturday for the Bob Edwards Weekend show about his new book, The Better to Eat You With: Fear in the Animal World. Berger begins by citing his experience watching several wolves—recently reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park after a sixty-year absence—as they stalked and killed an elk that, to Berger’s surprise, remained oblivious to the danger until it was too late. This lead Berger to the hypothesis that after only six decades, the elk had forgotten to fear a species that had survived by eating them for millennia. In the interview Berger expands on this idea citing a distinctly non-genetic aspect of the animal’s fear response that he attributes instead to a cultural element within the animal kingdom, comparing the elk’s behavior to a hypothetical naive tourist wandering through a tough neighborhood. Listen to the archived podcast of the show at