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From his self-built cabin in the southern Rockies and throughout the wilderness West, Petersen has spent the past twenty years observing, studying, praising, and defending the grand wild beasts that animate his daily world. Especially so the elk, a miraculous come-back that, through the 112,000-member Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, enjoys a larger and more dedicated fan club than even the grizzly bear or wolf.In this tightly linked collection of essays, Petersen takes us deep into the mountain forests to watch, smell, and talk with wapiti (a Shawnee word meaning white rump) and their wild neighbors, reflecting with wisdom, authority, and humility on their evolution, their behavior, their daily lives, and the impacts of the continued suburbanization of the West. Our guide looks as well at the various creatures who prey on elk -- from insects, to bears, to people with guns. In the latter instance, Petersen steps boldly beyond conventional side-taking to selectively praise the good and damn the bad, his only loyalty being truth, culminating with an exuberant condemnation of elk ranching and other forms of wildlife profiteering.