The Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes against Nature



Jackson, Donna M. The Wildlife Detectives:  How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes against Nature. 2000. 48pp. Lexile 1120.

In this absorbing photo-essay, the author of Bone Detectives (out of print but well worth finding in your library) introduces the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Oregon, the only Lab in the world devoted to crimes against wildlife.  The narrative focuses on the case of an elk shot illegally in Yellowstone.  While forensic scientists analyze DNA and bloodstains, identify antlers, and more, rangers and other park officials search for the poacher and his gun.  Sidebars supply interesting facts about wildlife forensics, crimes, endangered species,
laws about wildlife, and jobs in the field.  Color photographs show the scientists at work and add information about wildlife.  For readers who like forensic television shows, here’s a real life mystery with an unusual twist—and a good dose of science.

Web tie-in:  Have students spend some time at the website of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, which this book describes (http://www.lab.fws.gov/).  As the opening web page explains, "Our crime laboratory is very much like a 'typical' police lab,  except the victim is an animal.  We examine, identify, and compare evidence using a wide range of scientific procedures and instruments, in the attempt to link suspect, victim, and crime scene with physical evidence."  In the Students and Educators section, short videos provide "tours" of different areas of the lab such as the Toxicology Area, the Testfire Area, and the Pathology Unit.  


Students should also consider the publication date of this book, now more than a decade ago, and what that means for the book's accuracy.  The website will shine some light on this question.