Elbroch, M., & Rinehart, K. (2011). Behavior of North American Mammals. Peterson Reference Guide New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 378 pp.
Nature guides fall into two categories, guides for identification and guides to behavior. Identification guides focus on brief facts concerning animals, such as identifying marks, size, range, mating periods, and litter size. In contrast, behavioral guides delve into the complex way animals interact with their environment and other species. As the title suggests, Behavior of North American Mammals falls into the second category. Elbroch and Rinehart do a masterful job sifting the literature and summarizing it in a form that is readable and backed by research.
In case you forgot your high school biology, mammals are animals with a spine that have hair on their bodies and give birth to live young. In other words, all the animals that trappers seek for their fur are mammals. The authors organize the mammals according to their scientific orders. Several orders only have one species, such as Didelphimorphia which only has opossum listed. Orders listing with more species, such as Rodentia, are broken down into families. All the species are discussed using the same 8 categories: activity and movement, food and foraging, habitat and home range, communication, courtship and mating, development and dispersal of young, interactions among the species, and interactions with other species.
This text will help fill in the gaps in understanding, which will make you a more informed trapper. I also think that it will affirm insights trappers have already observed in their work as lay naturalists. As can be expected, the authors cover a lot of species that trappers don’t handle. However, I believe that trappers can benefit from learning more about prey species that furbearers feed upon. Greater sensitivity to the prey behavior can only improve scouting and trap placement because where prey exist, predators exist.
The book has a few minor issues readers about which readers should be mindful. First, the authors are trying to synthesize a vast amount of information for a national audience. While they handle this complex task with care, at times, their findings may not be applicable for all locations where the species is found. It is important to remember they have to generalize and that some information may not be applicable to species behavior in your part of the country. Second, the authors discussion of mammals is not complete. To my dismay, pocket gophers are not discussed, but moles are.
The text is beautifully illustrated with crisp color photos and line drawings. Technical terms are explained so readers don’t have to have a dictionary handy. I am confident that readers interested in research-based information about the mammals around us will find this text a worthwhile buy.
The book is available through major book distributors, such as Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and local bookstores with nature sections. It retails for $35 dollars but used copies can be purchase for $9.23, plus shipping.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest books are the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition and The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats. He can be contacted at wildlifecontrolconsultant at gmail dot com.
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