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Such super furry animals

PUBLISHED: 11:16 30 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:30 16 August 2010

Regular readers will be aware that I write fairly often about the many books on wildlife that roll off the presses each year. I know from your reaction that my comments are welcomed by bookworms thirsting for more knowledge about animals. Mammals of

Regular readers will be aware that I write fairly often about the many books on wildlife that roll off the presses each year.

I know from your reaction that my

comments are welcomed by bookworms thirsting for more knowledge about

animals.

Mammals of the British Isles Handbook is a giant in its field. Many publications are slightly spoiled by wedging text in a typeface so small as to require the reader to visit Specsavers or reach for a microscope.

That pitfall has been firmly avoided in a book produced by The Mammal Society which runs to a heavyweight 800 glossy A4 pages.

Articles on each species contain an exhaustive supply of facts. The entry for brown hares, for example, is spread over 10 pages. In the first few lines I learned that brown hares are not native to Britain but were introduced here in ancient times - and the Welsh call them ysgyfarnog.

Then come sections on recognition (look for the long, black-tipped ears), field signs, relationships, measurements, distribution, history, habitat, social organisation and behaviour, feeding, breeding, population, mortality, parasites and relations with humans.

Under these headings can be found a host of intriguing tit-bits. Red fox is the main brown hare predator, estimated British population is up to two million pairs, hares have a lifespan of less than three years, they eat their own droppings, and bucks scent mark by rubbing chins against vegetation, urinating on their feet and kicking backwards. Fascinating !

Distribution maps and density charts help the reader research where animals can easily be found.

All Britain's mammals receive similar treatment in what is probably the most comprehensive guide available.

In the cover blurb it claims to present an authoritative summary of our current knowledge - and it does exactly what it says.

Not cheap, but this revised edition of the out-of-print 1991 Handbook is a must for any serious mammalogist.

Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th edition, edited by S Harris and D W Yalden and published by The Mammal Society costs £70.

Order from Subbuteo Books (0870 010 9700) who will deliver. Ask for their catalogue.

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