This book, full title “Owls Aren’t Wise & Bats Aren’t Blind: A Naturalist Debunks Our Favorite Fallacies About Wildlife,” is an easy read, with 24 chapters, one per species (or species group in some cases). Although the writing is a bit precious and twee in places, Shedd is very knowledgeable across a wide spectrum of animals, and his enthusiasm is unmistakable.
There’s a wealth of information here on many of this continent’s best-known animals, as well as numerous lesser-known ones, especially for us west-coast folks – since Shedd lives in the eastern US, that’s where his focus is. Beaver, Moose, Badger and their ilk are not common denizens of the Pacific region.
Although the level of detail varies pretty widely from chapter to chapter, a pretty thorough treatment of the following critters is given (in order): beaver, muskrat, red & gray squirrel, flying squirrels, porcupines, bats, opossums, armadillo, newts/efts, toads, owls, herons & cranes, crows & ravens, weasels and their ilk, raccoons, red fox, coyote, timber wolves, bobcat & lynx, cougar, black brown and polar bears, white-tailed deer, moose, and bison – wheew!
There are far too many interesting tidbits to repeat here, but my favorite has to be the name of a baby porcupine – it’s called a “porcupette” (!!!) .
One drawback is that although each chapter starts with a list of common fallacies about the subject animal, Shedd draws heavily on personal anecdotes to fill out his narratives, and that’s where most of the false stereotypes of these critters came from in the first place! He also alternately decries, and then succumbs to, anthropomorphism, which struck me as pretty inconsistent.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who isn’t already a nature enthusiast, but for those who are, it’s sure to provide some fascinating insight into some everyday animals, even if it is a bit on the bouncy side.