The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Book Review
Mammals of North America
Ro Wauer, September 2004, The Victoria Advocate, © 2004

"Mammals of North America," a new Princeton Field Guide by Roland Kays and Don Wilson, is a most welcome reference book for anyone interested in wildlife. All of North America's 442 mammal species that occur north of Mexico, along with an abundance of good to excellent illustrations, are included in this 5x8-inch field guide. It contains all of the common and scientific mammal names, many that have been changed by the scientific community since the last comparable field guide hit the market many years ago. Because of its currency, this book is a must for layman and scientists alike. It is a marvelous addition to our field guides that undoubtedly will become well used both at home and on the road.

When traveling, one of the most appealing of all small mammals is the chipmunk. But did you know that there are 22 species in all? Seven occur in the Southwest, three in the East, three in the Rocky Mountains, five in Southern California, six in the Northwest Inland area, and five in the Northwest Coastal area (some overlap). There are no chipmunks in South Texas. All are well illustrated and described in this new field guide that uses the most recent taxonomy and common names.

The authors begin "Mammals of North America" with some worthwhile introductory materials, including an extensive "Quick Mammal ID Chart." The 108 color and five black-and-white plates of illustrations start with opossums and armadillos and are followed by several plates of shrews, rodents, and then all the higher mammals such as the carnivores, coyotes, cats and skunks; ungulates, such as deer and elk; and eventually the bats and the marine mammals, such as seals and whales. Plate 96 includes exotic ungulates such as fallow deer and Barbary sheep. The whale plates are divided into the large whales without dorsal fins and those without dorsal fins. Plates 105 and 106 include bow-riding dolphins and whales illustrated as one might see them from the bow of a boat. And Plates 109 and 110 illustrate whale and dolphin dive sequences. Really good stuff for anyone spending time offshore. And as might be expected, there are several that include a variety of scats, ranging from carnivores to cottontails and even bats. Mammal tracks are included on the backsides of the front and ending pages. An excellent index and a glossary are included, as well.

The book is well organized. Descriptive narratives and range maps are included directly across from each illustration, providing an excellent overall perspective of each species. For example, Plate 78 includes the larger foxes: red, gray, and island gray. The maps for both the red and gray foxes show that both of these species occur in east Texas, with the range of the gray fox extending into all of South Texas, while the range of the red fox reaches only the northeastern half of the state, but not too far away for the Central Gulf Coast. The treatment for the bats is also excellent. The authors illustrate all the species on ten plates, with an additional plate including heads only of the confusing cave bats. A fascinating touch that can be very helpful. There are numerous other worthwhile hints. For instance, a pen and ink sketch of a skull shows how to separate the look-alike eastern and New England cottontails.

"Mammals of North America" is available from Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540, for $19.95 paper or $49.50 cloth. I ordered mine online by going to www.google.com and pulling up Princeton University Press. I have not found the book as yet in bookstores. The 240 pages are well worthwhile. It is a must-buy for sportsman, hikers, naturalists, and other outdoor people.

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