The American Primate Conservancy - Discovery - Research - Knowledge - Recognition - Protection
A novel by Todd M. Neiss

Damp air draped the mountainous coast range of the Pacific Northwest.  Laboring to pierce the ever-present veil of clouds that reward this Darwinian paradise, basalt escarpments jutted skyward at ungodly angles from the densely forested valleys below.  The view from any one of a myriad of ridges was both simultaneously breathtaking and foreboding.

A mosaic of Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western red cedar and hemlock punctuated the horizon with their towering crowns.  Stands of alder dominated the countless river bottoms as they coursed seaward throughout the arboreal landscape, like arteries breathing life into the vast Saddle Mountain watershed.  Ancient thickets of devil's club, scotch broom and salal, camas and wapato presented a seemingly impassable patchwork maze throughout this temperate rainforest of old.  Orange salmon berries joined huckleberry and evergreen blackberry creating a sweet buffet for the denizens here.  horsetail ferns.  Once home to the ground sloth, woolly mammoth, giant beaver, and saber-toothed cats, this was a land where time seemed to stand still.

Even now, wildlife flourishes around every bend.  Crystalline streams team with rainbow and cutthroat trout.  Guided by their primal duty to recreate life, steelhead and salmon struggle against icy currents only to sacrifice themselves in the process.  Rarely making a sound, black-tailed deer cruise the timber like silent gray ghosts.  Regal mountain lions perch atop rocky outcroppings, sunning their golden coats during rare breaks in the incessant parade of storms that inundate this region.  This is also home to the American black bear.  These lumbering bruins perpetually forage on a banquet of berries, fish, grubs, insects and the occasional carcass of an unfortunate fellow forest-dweller.  Overhead, bald eagles and red-tailed hawks ply invisible drafts, competing for fish and golden-mantled ground squirrels.  Majestic Roosevelt elk roam like nomads, impervious to the inhospitable weather and terrain.  These enormous ungulates wear their massive ivory like crowns from a long forgotten monarchy.

But there were other noble beasts in this kingdom.  Here too was home to a race of giants who had existed for as long as anyone could remember.  Since the dawn of time, these peaceful beasts had endured all that nature could throw at them.  including those annoying humans.  As a result, they also bore witness to the demise of lesser species.  And yet somehow they had prevailed.  Above all, they were survivors.

Their course, shaggy coat of hair made them well equipped for the severe weather that they faced.  Roaming the forest on two massive human-like feet, they left behind a trail of deep tracks which, to the uninitiated, would simply be dismissed as odd depressions in the forest floor.  To these beasts, the world may have well have been flat; for not even the most rugged terrain could prove insurmountable.  Approaching 1,000 pounds, their broad, articulated feet enabled them to stalk their prey in eerie silence.  Stealth was but just one of their unique traits.

So much of what they had recognized was either gone or quickly vanishing.  Driven by the incessant encroachment of the only threat they had ever known, these reclusive denizens were constantly being forced to relocate...reluctantly ceding their ancestral range to the infiltrating humans and their destructive, infernal machines.  Evasion was their friend, and mankind their enemy.  And so it had been, from generation to generation.  An unspoken edict had been proclaimed amongst their clan; the only way to survive was to avoid the treacherous humans at all costs.  They were to merely observe them from afar, monitor their activities, and adapt accordingly.

But how long could they continue this game?  Their existence had already been compromised on numerous occasions.  Time was quickly becoming their worst enemy.  Their discovery was simply a matter of odds...and the odds were against them.  With that inevitability, came the uncertainty of their revelation.  How would the humans react?  The elders had warned the clan to avoid such a prospect at all costs.  Would these reclusive creatures simply become extinct like all those who preceded them?

They could not…would not let that happen. 
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