North American Wildlife

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Nature writing and photography at their most exciting. North America's wildlife have endured the challenges put to them -- human encroachment, changing climates, and increased pollution -- with new trials forcing them to adapt as best they can. Their struggles and remarkable strategies are chronicled in North American Wildlife.

Complementing the compelling writing of David Jones are 400 of the most intriguing in-the-wild moments of wildlife ever captured:

• A grizzly digging for...

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Nature writing and photography at their most exciting. North America's wildlife have endured the challenges put to them -- human encroachment, changing climates, and increased pollution -- with new trials forcing them to adapt as best they can. Their struggles and remarkable strategies are chronicled in North American Wildlife.

Complementing the compelling writing of David Jones are 400 of the most intriguing in-the-wild moments of wildlife ever captured:

• A grizzly digging for razor clams on the shores of the Pacific

• Wolves nursing their pups high in the Rocky Mountains

• A Florida panther resting in the sun

• Cougars and bobcats hunting

• Rabbits, hares, raccoons, and pikas foraging for food

• Stellar sea lions sunbathing off the Baja peninsula

• Humpback whales feeding near Alaska's coastal fjords

The expansive parklands of North America provide a stunning backdrop for this dramatic close-up look at life in the wild.

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Editorial Reviews

Don Gayton
Wildlife books are published by the truckload, and many of them present the natural history of a single species. North American Wildlife stands out from the rest by classifying many of the continent's creatures according to behaviour and survival tactics. The chapter called "Hobos," for example, explains why grizzlies and polar bears travel great distances even though they are not efficient walkers. This large-format book....copiously illustrated with the work of the best Canadian and American wildlife well worth its cover price.
Canadian Geographic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552857649
  • Publisher: Whitecap Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 635,049
  • Product dimensions: 8.88 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

David Jones studied biology at the University of British Columbia and has written for Photo Life and The Knowledge Network. He lives in Vancouver.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 9
Committed Killers: Wild cats 19
Led by the Nose: Wild dogs 41
Hobos: Bears 61
Overrun by Hooves: Hoofed animals 87
Short Legs and Tempers: The weasel family 117
Nasty, Brutish and Short: Shrews and moles 133
Dividing the Spoils: Rodents 147
Rabbits Run: Rabbits, hares, and picas 173
Southern Invaders: Raccoons, ringtails, coatis, opossums, and armadillos 189
Air Superiority: Bats 211
Those That Wait: Reptiles 225
A Double Life: Amphibians 255
A Day at the Beach: Marine mammals 275
Index 300
Photo Credits 304
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The fables of Aesop feature the most familiar animals of Europe and North America to impart their morals, but one of them, the grasshopper and the ant, is as much a parable for wildlife as it is for human beings.

An ant was stockpiling corn for the coming winter when a grasshopper happened by, gamboling and singing. The grasshopper stopped to ask the ant how he could waste such a fine summer's day in toil. The ant thanked the grasshopper for his concern, but replied that it was in his nature to be prepared. "Suit yourself," said the grasshopper, who hopped merrily off. In the traditional ending to the fable, the ant, snug in his winter larder, answers a faint knock at his door in the dead of winter to find the grasshopper on his doorstep, begging for any morsel the ant might spare. The ant rebukes the grasshopper for his lazy ways and turns him back out into the snow to face certain starvation.

A stand-up comedian popular twenty years ago invented his own ending for the tale, which, roughly paraphrased, was "Then winter came and they both froze to death." The comedian was the aptly named Jonathan Winters, and his version of the fable has a core of truth to it. In the tropics, food and water are abundant year round and life is limited only by other life. For every species there is another striving to eat it, infect it, or take the food from its mouth. Predation, disease, and competition also pose difficulties for temperate species, but north of the 35th parallel, all animals face a common imperative: After a summer of plenty, the hammer of winter falls.

The mammals have bartered a solution to the problem of winter with the currencies ofmilk and fat. With fat, they can draw on the summer's abundance over the lean winter. With milk, they pass this abundance on to their offspring at a time when newborns are too small or weak to forage for themselves. Nowhere is this strategy more dramatic than in the marine mammals. A northern right whale's body is almost 40 percent blubber. The mother hooded seal transfers blubber to her pup with the urgency of an aerial refueling. Her milk is half fat, enabling the pup to double its birth weight before being weaned in only four days.

Many rodents forego the conversion to fat and store their food directly, stockpiling seeds, nuts, or grasses for the colder months. Their bodies in turn become food for carnivores that hunt them through the winter.

Reptiles and amphibians cannot offer their offspring milk, but their eggs allow their young to inherit nutrients during their early development. Lizards such as the Gila monster and the chuckwalla store fat in their tails to help them through the dry season. But in general, cold-blooded animals are less effective at storing fat than mammals. Instead, they excel in their ability to reduce spending to bare minimums. At the northern extremes of their ranges, snakes and frogs must hibernate half their lives to survive.

In the deserts of the American southwest, the availability of food is limited not by cold, but by water. Here, the reptiles and amphibians have excelled. Despite a complete dependence upon water during the larval stage of their life, some toads estivate through desert heat, cocooned in mud and mucus, waiting for the rains that will allow their eggs and tadpoles to swarm for a few weeks in temporary pools.

Only in the southeastern corner of the United States do climatic conditions approach those in the tropics -- stable, warm, and wet throughout the year. Not surprisingly, reptiles and amphibians are far more abundant here than in other habitats. The alligator is Florida's dominant predator, and the state has become a haven for hundreds of exotic species, many of them seeded by escaped pets.

The wildlife of North America are, in one sense, a remnant fauna. The mammals are the survivors of a wave of extinctions that occurred at the end of the last ice age, some 11 000 years ago. No one is certain what killed almost three-quarters of the large mammals at this time, but paleolithic hunters are suspected. One theory is that the large grazers, inexperienced with human predators, fell easy prey to these first colonists. The carnivores starved soon after. Reptiles and amphibians have survived a much earlier winter, one that wiped out the dinosaurs 100 million years ago, probably brought on by an asteroid or comet that struck the earth.

Like the ant in the fable of old, these survivors are the veterans in the battle for the calorie, which they must fight anew each season. It is a battle the animals can never win, but they can endure. This book is about their remarkable strategies.

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