Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska's Wildlife

Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska's Wildlife

by Bill Sherwonit


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These timeless, beautifully written essays share encounters and observations on a variety of Alaskan wildlife and include natural history information.

In these essays about Alaska’s best-known and most charismatic animals—grizzlies and wolves, moose and Dall sheep, bald eagles and beluga whales—Sherwonit also introduces readers to many of Alaska’s largely overlooked species, from wood frogs to redpolls and shrews to lynx and wolverines. The stories are geographically diverse, stretching across the state, from the Panhandle to the Arctic, and also from Alaska’s urban center, Anchorage, to its most remote backcountry.

Sherwonit examines the complicated relationships humans have with other animals and consider different ways of knowing, and relating to, these critters. Animal Stories increases readers’ awareness and questions their own relationships with wild neighbors, wild relatives, and the inherent value that these animals have, irrespective of what they give to us.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941821084
Publisher: West Margin Press
Publication date: 09/15/2014
Pages: 276
Sales rank: 1,188,255
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

For more than three decades, Anchorage-based writer Bill Sherwonit has written extensively about wilderness, the natural history of animals and plants, wildlife management, connection to place, conservation issues, and notions of wildness. He’s contributed stories and photos to a wide variety of national publications and is the author of over a dozen books about Alaska. He also teaches nature and travel writing in his adopted hometown of Anchorage.

Read an Excerpt

In the Company of Bears
It’s cold out here. Fingers and toes are tingling. My small field thermometer reads in the upper forties, but with the gusting winds, the chill is probably closer to freezing. Classic hypothermia weather. So, here I am, behind a shelter and cloaked in wind shell, fleece jacket, capilene shirt, nylon pants, wool cap with rain hood pulled over it, and fleece gloves—and starting to shiver. Meanwhile bear, lying on an exposed bench and faced into the wind, shows no discomfort at all. If he’s not chilled at all on a day like this, does he overheat on the bright, sunny, warm days of summer (which admittedly seem to be few and far between here)?
The bear naps more than an hour before rising. Immediately, he resumes feeding. He does little else for the next two hours except chew mouthfuls of tundra greens. He barely lifts his head, except to see where the next patch of food might be, and seldom has to take more than a few steps to get there. He continues to ascend a rocky rivulet surrounded by low-lying but lush green plants, until reaching a rubbly pile of lichen-bearded boulders. He then tops a brownish knoll that apparently has little to tempt him, and ambles to another lush swale, where he resumes his feasting.
It would appear the grizzly has entered the late-summer phase that biologists sometimes call hyperphagia: an almost around-the-clock gorging, in preparation for winter’s months-long fasting. At one point the bear finds a spot so luscious, all he can do is sprawl in the midst of it.
The more I watch the grizzly, the more I’m confident he’s a heavily muscled mature male, perhaps in his prime. He has little to fear, except, perhaps, for a larger bear—which seems unlikely here—or hunters bearing guns. That’s one good thing about this weather: no hunters are likely to come this way today.

Table of Contents

Introduction/Author’s Note

I. Meeting the Neighbors
The Songs of Robins Stretch Across Time and Space
The Hidden Lives of Hares and Shrews
Living with Moose Through the Seasons and Across the Years
Watching Belugas
Point Woronzof’s Spectacle of Swallows
Squirrelly Behavior
Leaving the Nest
Ravens in Winter
Redpoll Serenade: Celebrating the End of Winter
Of Bears and Bird Seed
Listening to Owl

II. Along City and Highway Fringes
A Gathering of Swans
Called to a Primeval Presence: Anchorage’s Sandhill Cranes
Nesting Goshawks
Arctic Terns, the World’s Greatest Long-Distance Flyers
Campbell Creek’s Silvers
On the Trail, Finding Lynx
Valley of the Eagles

III. Backcountry Encounters
In the Company of Bears
Crossing Paths with Porcupine
Looking into Wild Eyes
Seeking Caribou, Touching the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain
Fourteen Ways of Viewing Alaska’s Wild, White Sheep
Meeting a Legend: Wolverine
Paddling with Porpoises
Wilderness Music: Sharing a Valley with Howling Wolves

IV. Oddities, Surprises, and Dilemmas
A Gift of Halibut
Leonard Peyton’s Redpoll Project
Otter Catastrophe
“Nice” Weather Gets Seals Hot
Mystery of Alaska’s Deformed-Bill Chickadees
An Overlooked Marvel: In Search of Anchorage’s Wood Frogs
Of Waxwings and Goshawks and Standing Up to Power
A Tale of Two Wolverines and One Beloved Dog

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From the Publisher

Essays from this book were chosen for the Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology: "In the Company of Bears" (2007) and "Twelve Ways of Viewing Alaska's Wild, White Sheep" (2014)

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