Dan Flores - Chronicling the West’s Rich Natural History - Mountain & Prairie Podcast
Dan Flores is a writer, historian, and former professor whose work explores the connections between people and the natural world in the American West. His most recent books—Coyote America and American Serengeti—are two of the most enlightening and informative books on the West’s natural history that I have ever read. The former is a biography of the coyote, a surprisingly fascinating animal with a rich and severely misunderstood history. The latter explores the last big mammals of the great plains—pronghorn, coyotes, horses, grizzlies, bison, and wolves—and also gives a great overview of North American big history.
It’s clear that Dan was a wonderful professor, because as you’ll hear in this episode, he has a real knack for explaining complicated subjects in a way that’s understandable, engaging, and exciting. This conversation gave me a glimpse into what it must have been like to be a student in Dan’s class at the University of Montana—I walked away from it full of new knowledge, and it whet my appetite to dig deeper into the many subjects we covered.
I could’ve asked Dan questions for hours and hours, but in our relatively short time together we managed to cover a lot. We start by discussing the coyote—how and why the animal has been so misunderstood, its similarities to humans, how it has managed to thrive despite efforts to totally eradicate the species, and the varying pronunciations of the word coyote. Then we discuss horses—the misconception that they are a non-native species in North America, their evolutionary history around the world, and some modern-day challenges facing the West's few remaining wild horses. We also talk about Dan’s childhood in Louisiana, his current home in New Mexico, his favorite books on the American West, and much, much more.
This is an excellent episode and I’m excited for you to listen. If you haven’t already, buy Coyote America and American Serengeti—I can promise you’ll love them both.
3:00 - How Dan describes his work
4:10 - History of the pronunciation of “Coyote”
7:30 - Coyote’s historical reputation
11:00 - Coyote’s historical status in Native American lore
12:30 - Mark Twain’s influence on the coyotes’ image
14:05 - Coyotes as humans’ avatars
16:15 - Fission and fusion in coyotes
18:00 - Coyotes' ability to control their reproduction
22:20 - Dan’s thoughts on the current attempted Federal Land grab
28:45 - Misconception that horses are non-native
34:30 - Current issues with horses in the United States
37:55 - Dan’s thoughts on the BLM Wild Mustang Program
40:15 - Dan’s early years in Louisiana
43:00 - First trip to Carlsbad Caverns
45:20 - Dan’s passionate love of desert
48:55 - Living in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley
51:00 - Changes in Montana during Dan’s time there
55:00 - "In Defense of the Ranchette” article
1:01:45 - Favorite books about the American West
1:08:00 - Most powerful experience outdoors
1:09:20 - Favorite place in the West
1:11:30 - Dan’s request of the listeners
1:15:45 - Connect with Dan