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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Currently reading

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ann J. Lane
Wizard and Glass
Stephen King, Dave McKean
River of Blue Fire
Tad Williams
Richard Ford
Progress: 36/420 pages

Candid Creatures / Roland Kays

Candid Creatures: How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature - Roland W. Kays

Have you ever bookmarked a webcam? Maybe one at an African watering hole or at a bird’s nest?  Have you found yourself obsessively checking back, to see what’s been happening, which animals are visiting or what the parent birds are feeding their chicks?


This book gives you another look into the secret lives of animals. Biologists are getting more & more creative about collecting data without invading animal lives overtly.  I’ve read in the past about setting bait with barbwire surrounds, meaning that the animals that claim the bait will leave behind hair on the barbs from which genetic info can be gleaned, but this is even less invasive—let a remote camera gather your data.


The only downside that I can see is that animals DO notice the cameras, with greater and lesser amounts of hostility. Chimps check them out, but generally leave them alone once they’re sure the camera isn’t harmful.  Elephants, on the other hand, seem to use the “Hulk smash” form of camera exploration.


I spent over 15 years in volunteer natural history education, often feeling like I had been studying for that position since I first began to read, and yet there were animals covered in this collection that I had never heard of. Plus interesting ways of using camera trap data to learn more about these elusive creatures’ lives.  However, the book begins with an animal we all feel familiar with: tigers.  (Because the world and the internet are all about teh kittehs.)  Field work with big predators can be difficult (they are elusive) and even dangerous (the big ones can kill humans), so remote cameras are a boon to the researcher.


Covering animals from Aardvarks to Vampire bats, in this book you get the “greatest hits” from camera traps from all over the world. I particularly appreciated a few illustrations from the Canadian Rocky Mountains, just west of my city.  U of Calgary’s Environmental Design department featured a display a number of years ago of photos from some of their trail cameras which were fascinating.  A group of hikers on a trail, followed seconds later by a cougar or a grizzly bear. 


Nature lovers will be rewarded with interesting & up-to-date info, plus the great photos. Since I recommended that our public library purchase this book, I am very pleased that it is such an interesting volume.