that lives in their homes at their invitation, even fish. Butntheir numbers increase, and — let me whisper even lower —nI like the taste of pigeon.nA cat. Everyone, even vegetarians, keeps cats, maybenbecause they so obviously dominate the symbiosis.nA hawk. Oh-oh. A falcon, worse still. A huntingnfalcon — a domestic-bred hybrid falcon, half peregrine. Anhalf-endangered species, genetic contamination, hunting,nprobably dominance and sadism. Falconry, surely a perversionnmorally equivalent to Nazism. Didn’t Goering keepnhawks?nMy conscience alerted, I can see more evidence of anwarped personality. Skulls, bones, feathers from my preynand the hawk’s. The skulls of a horse, a sheep, a pig, anpronghorn. A for-the-moment-empty terrarium, with ansnake stick leaning against it. A butterfly net, pointing tonboxes full of (dead!) insects. And there’s worse to come.nOpened, the freezer reveals wrapped packages of whitetailedndeer, wild pig, and Gambel’s quail. How can a personnwith wildlife art on his walls and a room full of naturalnhistory books sink so low? Very easily, I’m afraid. I’m what’snalways been called a naturalist.nAll through the 19th century, and well into the 1950’snwhen I grew up, my habits were seen by most as eccentricnbut scarcely evil. Hunters, biologists, zoo keepers, andnanimal breeders were united in what Harvard’s E.O. Wilsonncalled “biophilia” — a fascination with nonhuman livingnthings that makes a person realize that there is more to lifenthan Homo sapiens. Wilson says: “We are human in goodnpart because of the particular way we affiliate with othernorganisms. They are the matrix in which the human mindnoriginated and is permanently rooted.” But Wilson, thenauthor of the best book to date on the roots of thenconservation impulse, is hardly an advocate of animalnliberation or hands-off practices. He is a field entomologist,nan old-fashioned naturalist, a celebrant of Ortega y Gassetnand the hunter’s ethic, who looks beyond the compiling ofnknowledge to a higher synthesis where “the excitement ofnthe scientist’s search for the true nature of the speciesnrecedes, to be replaced in part by the more enduringnresponses of the hunter and poet.” He has written (innBiophilia, Harvard University Press) the best essay to datenon the conservation ethic and why it exists.nHow did he get there?nWhen I read Wilson’s book, one of the things thatnimpressed me most strongly was how much alike ournchildhoods were, despite differences in age and geography.nHe grew up in the Florida Panhandle in the 30’s, “Likenmost boys in that part of the country set loose to roam thenwoods I enjoyed hunting and fishing and made no clearndistinction between these activities and life at large. But Inalso cherished natural history for its own sake and decidednvery early to become a biologist.”nI was born after World War II in Dorchester, Massachusetts,na blue-collar neighborhood of Boston that featuresnnarrow streets lined with three-decker wooden houses. Mynearliest memories are of backyard ant nests, of watching ratsnand pigeons from a roofed porch, of a mouse that drownednin my bedside water glass, of sparrow and starling nestsnblown down by a hurricane. When at the age of four Inmoved 20 miles south to then-rural Easton, it might as wellnhave been Africa. I wandered from dawn to dusk in the farmnfields and along the railroad tracks.nI brought home everything. At one time a friend and Inmaintained for an entire summer a colony of toads, a pair ofnspotted turtles, a hognosed snake (we caught extra toads fornit, being unwilling to sacrifice any of ours), a bluejay, anrobin, and a terrarium of deer mice. I collected—killed, tonbe clear about it — insects. My father kept racing pigeonsnand gave me a little loft of show breeds when, at about eight,nhe judged me capable of caring for them. These in turnnattracted hawks, which my father was enlightened enoughnnot to shoot. In the fall he hunted, bringing home blacknducks and ruffed grouse. In the winter there were alwaysnbird feeders, thronged with chickadees and nuthatches, jaysnand starlings, and sometimes a startling “rarity” like thenevening grosbeak.nLater I, too, learned to hunt; then I took up the morendemanding discipline of falconry. Still later, I lived in a tentnon Mount Tom for a summer, working for the Cornellnperegrine team as a small cog in what has become the mostnsuccessful endangered species project yet accomplished.nEach level was a direct result of the one before it: thenanimal-obsessed collecting kid became the hunter-naturalist,nbecame the active conservationist.nMy childhood, except in detail, is the childhood of all thennaturalists who have given us their visions of the livingnworld: Darwin, Hudson, Richard Jefties, Theodore Roosevelt,nWilliam Beebe, Aldo Leopold, Konrad Lorenz, EdwardnWilson, and Gerald Durrell. These are the thinkersnwho have shaped our perception of the nature and value ofnlife, the crusaders who have battled for its preservation.nParadoxically, I fear the future existence of such biophiles isnthreatened by groups who claim to speak for the animalsnthat the naturalists have made it possible to understand.nA critic, however, once said that fanatics are people whoncan’t ever be bought. She meant that people who have nonprice, be it family or love or community, are warped.nEngland’s hunt saboteurs and hard-core “anti” strike forcesnhave gone this far. They routinely endanger horses, hounds,nand human hunters. They have released minks from farmsninto a countryside full of small animals with no naturalndefenses. They claim to have put rat poison into candy barsnto protest experimentation and brag about having acquirednautomatic weapons. Some even say they would prefer thatnan animal become extinct rather than allow it to be hunted.nAfter Audubon magazine ran a couple of piecesnneutral—not “pro” — on the subject of hunting, it receivednhundreds of letters. A few were sensible. Some advocatednbloody death for hunters. Some called articles tolerant ofnhunting “obscene.” Many wrote to resign from one of thencountry’s more effective conservation groups. One evennwent so far as to lament “the demise of a once sensitive,nhumane organization.” These letters come from gentle,n”humane” readers with just a touch of antihunt fanaticism.nThey are people who, though they might recoil in horror atnreading it, wish to ban outright anything they do notnunderstand — sort of like the creationists they deplore. Theynare the new puritans.nA perfect example of the puritan attitude is contained innthe editorial I quoted in the beginning of this piece. “Somenivory,” says Wille, “is legal, but why have ivory at all?” HisnnnFEBRUARY 1988 / 17n