Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research 6:1 (Spring 1996). Copyright © 1996 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Wild Animals and Settlers on the Great Plains is an informative but flawed book. As an example of environmental history written by a biologist unacquainted with the fundamentals of doing history, it fails to offer any theory (or theories) of history governing the time and place under scrutiny. What it does provide is a huge amount of information drawn from diaries, letters, and newspapers in an inadequately edited form. Lacking primary quantitative data, Eugene Fleharty, a zoologist at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, painstakingly provides a great deal of qualitative, albeit anecdotal, information about Euro-American settlement in Kansas and its effect on the native animal population. (Another problem is the title of the book, which purports to deal with the Great Plains but only examines Kansas. Fleharty explains that his state is representative, but I wonder if the impact on wildlife habitat of cattle ranches and cotton farms in Texas is the same as the wheat and sunflower fields of North Dakota, to say nothing of Canada.)