Cover image for Owls aren't wise and bats aren't blind : a naturalist debunks our favorite fallacies about wildlife
Owls aren't wise and bats aren't blind : a naturalist debunks our favorite fallacies about wildlife
Shedd, Warner, 1934-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
ix, 322 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL751 .S56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL751 .S56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
QL751 .S56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL751 .S56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL751 .S56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Did you know that "flying" squirrels are incapable of true flight? Were you aware that opossums don't "play dead," as in the common folk saying "playing possum"? In this fascinating and gorgeously illustrated new book, wildlife expert and enthusiast Warner Shedd, former executive for the National Wildlife Federation, uncovers the scientific realities obscured by our numerous long-held misconceptions of wild animals. Setting the most tenacious of these age-old superstitions against evidence that he and other biologists and naturalists have gleaned from careful observation and investigation, Shedd refutes such popular myths as beavers can fell trees in a desired direction, gray squirrels remember where they bury nuts, wolves howl at the moon, and cougars are an endangered species. In addition to dispelling misinformation, Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind presents some fascinating facts about the animals that many of us encounter in our own backyards or walking across the road as we drive in our cars. For instance, did you know that a porcupine is actually a large rodent, and that its protective quills are really specialized hairs numbering about 30,000 per animal? That means that a typical porcupine has about 140 quills per square inch! Shedd also uses humorous anecdotes to show us how funny (and educational) it can be when animals themselves defy our mistaken beliefs about them. Casting new light on the old tenet that ravens can be taught to mimic the human voice, Warner Shedd tells of a scientist who spent six years teaching a raven to cry "nevermore," after the haunting raven in the famous Edgar Allan Poe poem. Shedd further explains that recent research indicates that ravens only mimic if they have the desire to do so.   Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind covers more than thirty North American species--some as familiar as the common toad, others as elusive as the lynx. And Shedd captivates the reader as only an experienced naturalist could, with detailed, accurate information on such varied wildlife as muskrats, herons, brown bears, crows, armadillos, and coyotes--to name only a few.   Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind grew out of Warner Shedd's desire to share biologically sound information and counter erroneous folklore about wild animals. By arming his readers with knowledge, Shedd hopes to promote a more informed and respectful view of many North American wildlife species and ultimately encourage the scientific management and conservation of all our native wildlife.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Readers who have stumbled over a possum on the back porch or run over an armadillo on a dark highway will love Shedd's brief discussions of 30 animals about whom most of us think we know more than we do. Many of his subjects gather myths because they live fairly close to us: critters like squirrels (and flying squirrels), opossums, bats, toads, owls, armadillos, deer, weasels, raccoons, crows and ravens, foxes, wolves, and coyotes. Others are less often spotted in city or suburb--beavers, muskrats, porcupines, herons and cranes, big cats and bears, moose, and bison. There's even a fascinating account of newts and efts. A former regional executive of the National Wildlife Federation, now director of the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation, Shedd discusses each animal in a conversational manner, explaining the species' history, life cycle, method of reproduction, prey and enemies, and speculating about the sources of the myths that have grown up about the animal. Includes a select bibliography plus suggested resources on wildlife conservation. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Owls can't learn beans compared with ravens and jays; they are, however, "superb killing machines," with "virtually silent flight" and wonderful earsÄ"sightless owls can catch mice by sound alone." Combining reader-friendly wildlife biology and ecology with the folklore of the New England woods, Shedd (who runs the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation) uses common mistakes as springboards for 24 entertaining essays about the real lives, habits and characteristics of various well-known animals. Most concern mammals, from weasels to white-tailed deer, though "The Newt and the Red Eft" get a chapter to themselves, or to itself (the two names describe pond- and land-dwelling stages of the same animal). Moose, it turns out, gained in numbers in northeastern forests after timber companies' clear-cuts created vast "moose pastures" of young trees. Flying squirrels are really gliding squirrels, and during the winter up to eight shack up together. Shedd's helpful chapter on cougars distinguishes the Florida panther (endangered) from its cousins in the Western U.S. (fierce and thriving) and their surviving cousins in the Northeast (mostly mythicalÄthough some poor souls, returning from the mountain states, have brought home cougar kittens as pets). Cougars (like most big cats) don't chase their prey: stalking and pouncing, they rely on surprise instead. Hikers, forest fans, armchair naturalists and others who enjoy these kinds of facts can find plenty more here on bisons, beavers, badgers, bears and other North American creatures (many elegantly depicted in illustrations by Trudy Nicholson). As for those titular bats, "most actually see quite well," though their amazing sonar system, as Shedd describes it, serves most of their in-flight needs. Agent, Linda Roghaar. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The wise old owl isn't really wise, and the expression "blind as a bat" is nonsense because bats actually have very good vision. The clever coyote deserves his nickname "wily," however, and opossums really do go into a trancelike state when frightened. This book takes several of our commonly held beliefs about wildlife and gives us the real story behind each--often quite different from what we've always believed! Shedd, a naturalist whose articles have appeared in Sports Afield and Outdoor Life, serves as director of the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation. He gives us the real scoop on the habits and lifestyles of 27 common North American animals and makes it an entertaining read by including personal anecdotes of his encounters with many of these creatures. Recommended for public libraries, this will be a favorite with wildlife enthusiasts everywhere.--Deborah Emerson, Leroy V. Good Lib., Monroe Community Coll., Rochester, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-Shedd discusses myths about common North American fauna, including squirrels (red, gray, and flying), bears (black, grizzly, and polar), wolves, beavers, badgers, weasels, bats, owls, porcupine, opossum, bison, deer, coyote, and others. The factual text is interspersed with the author's personal experiences with these animals. He provides basic information about each creature before proceeding to expose the truth behind the folk story, such as "beavers pack mud with their tails" or "newborn fawns have no scent." This is a good resource for short reports, to round out longer reports with a different perspective, or simply to browse for pleasure. The author's style is chatty and entertaining without losing clarity or obscuring factual detail. He emphasizes having respect for the wildness of wildlife and repeatedly cautions readers from attempting to interact with wild animals. A great book for nature lovers.-Susan Salpini, Purcellville Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.