Sixty years ago, Dick Dekker immigrated from one of the smallest countries in Europe to the second-largest country in the world- Canada. Dreaming of Canada’s wilderness, he risked his life to find wolves and spent half a century watching eagles and falcons for which his native Holland had become too small to support. The ancient maxim that nature is red in tooth and claw, attributed to Shakespeare, is still true today. But rather than just concentrating on the predators, Dekker’s focus is also on the prey species, how deer, ducks, and sandpipers manage to cope with their peril. Hiking and camping in Jasper National Park, he was first to describe that the return of wolves had led to the restoration of the ecological balance between vegetation, grazing elk, and wolves, with beneficial side effects for the intertwined lives of beavers and other wildlife. His insights became the inspiration for what has since become known as a trophic cascade in Yellowstone. Dekker’s detailed studies of the hunting tactics of Peregrine Falcons on ocean coasts and inland lakes are unprecedented. He has recorded more prey captures by wild falcons than anyone else in the published literature. His discoveries and unique observations are narrated in simple yet evocative prose the reader can identify with.
About the author
Theodorus Johannes (Dick) Dekker was born in Rotterdam on 19 October 1933. Just after the outbreak of the Second World War and before Rotterdam was bombed, he moved to Haarlem, where he received his secondary education at Het Triniteitslyceum. In 1950 he began a career in graphic design and publish-ing at Uitgeverij De Spaarnestad. Nature study had become a lifelong passion. At 17, he sold his first illustrated articles to youth magazines and eventually to a wide range of print media. His list of publications in the Dutch language, which continues to grow, now includes 222 titles and seven books. In 1959 he emi-grated to Canada in search of unspoiled wilderness. After almost having lost his life in a canoe accident in Yukon, he returned to Haarlem in 1961, resuming his nature writing until 1964, when he again left for Canada, accompanied by his wife Irma. In Edmonton, Alberta, he established himself as a free-lance graphic designer until 1982. Since then he has devoted himself full-time to wildlife writing and field research, which includes long-range mammal surveys in Jasper National Park, and ongoing studies of the avian inventory and habitat succession at Beaverhills Lake, a Ramsar wetland and Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve. He has given talks about wolves and other wildlife at a number of national and international conferences and nature group meetings. His growing list of pub-lications in the english language now sits at 180 titles, including 27 papers in refereed journals, nine books, and three scripts for television documentaries. Throughout, his main focus has been on the dynamics of predator and prey interactions, with particular emphasis on the Peregrine and other falcons.
“Dick Dekker is a remarkable individual, and Stories of Predation is a remarkable book. The tagline, "60 Years of Watching Wildlife," gives away the fact that this is actually an autobiography, summarizing Dekker's accomplishments over the years. On page 209, he can't resist letting us know that this was his original choice for the title. Still, the book is indeed about predators, mostly, and there are plenty of well-told stories here about wolves, falcons, and eagles. But the book also contains tales of shorebirds, ungulates, forests, and water levels, and on another level, it chronicles Dekker's opinions on various aspects of park management (and mismanagement), conservation, life in the backcountry, and life as a Dutch immigrant to Canada. It is important to realize that in many ways, Dick Dekker's perspective is singular. He is not a university academic, although he now holds a PhD, and his publication record looks a lot like one of theirs. Likewise, he is not a government biologist, or a typical environmental journalist. Instead, Dekker describes himself as an independent naturalist. In a world where most biological studies take place over one or two "field seasons," Dick Dekker's datasets were amassed over decades. Whereas most biologists frame their studies in terms of "hypothesis testing," Dekker is relentlessly inductive, mulling over thousands of observations before suggesting a general explanation for what he has seen. Even among birders and weekend naturalists, Dekker's observational record stands out prominently. For this reason, Stories of Predation should be right there on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the natural history of Western Canada, be they professional or amateur. Recognizing the importance of diverse perspectives on all environmental issues, a voice as unique and powerful as Dick Dekker's deserves to be heard, and this book will ensure his legacy as a truly insightful naturalist."
John Acorn, Naturalist and Research Associate at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
“This book is a tremendous contribution to the biology and historical changes of wildlife in Canada. Few biologists have been as dedicated to field studies as is the case with Dick Dekker. He has been a critical thinker, and followed through, by taking the time to write about it. A book well worth having on a bookshelf for anyone interested in wildlife."
Dr. Lu Carbyn, Retired Research Scientist, Canadian Wildlife Service Adjunct Professor, University of Alberta
"Dick Dekker has had a long career as a naturalist, independent researcher, and educator. In this memoir, which is an interesting mix of personal story comingled with natural and human history, he has chronicled his experiences and observations acquired over 60 years while immersed in and interacting with the vibrant and challenging natural reality of a very special place. This special place is the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, where Dr. Dekker introduces us to the lives and interactions of many of the predators and prey that inhabit this wild place, along with a history of some of the concurrent influences and impacts affected by human residence and activity in the region. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this readily accessible and entertaining addition to the long-established discipline of natural history writing."
Robert Hoffman, Ecologist (retired)
“Dick Dekker provides the reader, be they a naturalist or professional biologist, with an invaluable memoir of a lifetime watching predators in the wild. In a series of vignettes, Dekker shares his adventures, academic insights and opinions into two iconic predators – the Peregrine Falcon and Grey Wolf. These are the joys and rewards of patient observations throughout western Canada, and he teaches us that fear of predators leaves a fingerprint on the behaviors of the prey. The stories will inspire the reader to take a pause, find a good vantage spot, and ‘sit quietly by the shore and let the birds come to you."
Dr. Mark Drever, University of British Columbia