Entertaining squelchings of wildlife humbuggery from former National Wildlife Federation executive Shedd.
It is time for our warped ideas of wildlife to be straightened out, declares Shedd in his engaging and conversational tone, time to weed out those heinous lies that keep us from communing on a deeper level with the armadillo, muskat, heron, moose, or bear. Shedd has not gathered a rogue’s gallery of sideshow freaks or microscopic critters, verminous or venomous, but rather a company of familiar animals that has been given a bad rap. It doesn’t take him long to point out that a red squirrels do not castrate gray squirrels, or that flying squirrels can’t fly, or that the moose is not very happy to be petted. Some of these myths surrounding animals surely don’t need to be debunked—that weasels kill for the love of it, for example, or that a crow can “imitate a human voice better if its tongue is split”—for it is hard to believe they were bunked to begin with. Others are highly subjective (toads may indeed be repulsive to some, contrary to Shedd’s assertion that they are not ugly), while still others are more in the nature of quibbles than errors (for instance, that a porcupine’s quills don’t have barbs but overlapping scales). So Shedd has some time on his hands here and he uses it wisely, more interestingly and valuably, to sketch quick portraits of these animals, some three dozen, yielding a primer on habitat, behavior, and the niches they have carved for themselves. He includes those little quirks that make them so appealing: how the eft got its name and why we call it a newt, when it is better to be a marten than a fisher, why the lynx has tufts on its ears.
Shedd succeeds in his self-appointed task as public relations man for besmirched wildlife reputations, erasing the distaste we might harbor for these otherwise captivating animals. (27 b&w line drawings)