Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska's Wildlife
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.
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About the AuthorFor 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. www.billsherwonit.alaskawriters.com.
"ANIMAL STORIES shows us once again that Bill Sherwonit has been assiduous in his exploration of Alaska's wild places and wild life, persistent in his quest for knowledge, and determined to understand the world around us. For those of us in Anchorage he reveals an amazing array of wild species that inhabit our urban yards and parks, creeks, rivers, and the mountains and ocean arms that enclose us. Bears and moose we see frequently, but Bill offers us 'hints of a hidden world' of hares and shrews and birds that weigh an ounce, and mosquitoes enough to satisfy the fleet swallows that inhabit the cliffs at Woronzof. Wolverine is seen twice. Robins and bears, shrews and chickadees. . . . We share our landscape with these voracious insectivores. They are all around us leading secret lives.' The land and its creatures offer us 'the surprises and the mystery' of life itself.
Sherwonit takes us around Anchorage and its fringes, and over much of Alaska, showing us creatures we rarely take time, or have the good fortune, to see, like the lynx on Turnagain Arm Trail: it is April, there are catkins and early mosquitoes, and right there, a lynx staring at him, becoming 'part of his relationship to this forest trail.' But he also takes us to Denali Park for Dall sheep, the Chilkat Valley for 'this meeting of eagles, the largest in the world at the Bald Eagle Council Grounds.' We go to Kodiak for brown bears and also discover it is 'an unexpected treat to be paddling among porpoises' off Homer. Bill shows us the fur seals at St. Paul, the wolf in the John River Valley whose howl will haunt his memories and dreams. Thought of it may haunt us too. He walks unarmed in bear country in the Brooks Range and calls to mind his totems: 'bear is one, squirrel, chickadee, wolf, spider . . . they are teacher, messenger, guide' for him and become so for us. 'I want to understand what wilderness means to me. And what sacred means, ' Bill writes. And every account of animal, bird, or fish encountered includes a mini-encyclopedia of information about the creatures he sees. "Like porcupine whom the Koyukons call 'the off the beaten path wanderer, ' Bill Sherwonit's Animal Stories takes us on trips that 'give us greater vision and a better understanding of our world.'" --Gary Holthaus, author of LEARNING NATIVE WISDOM and FROM THE FARM TO THE TABLE
"Whether tracking beluga whales in a citizen science project or tracking robins on his front lawn, learning lessons from a charging brown bear or stopping to listen to wood frogs, Sherwonit writes with grace and ease about his encounters with Alaskan wildlife. Commuting ravens. Insouciant wolverines. And the redpoll's exuberant chorus of song. The author combines personal experience and careful research in a journey that will compel and delight." --Sharman Apt Russell, author of Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist and An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect
"With half of the state designated as wilderness, Alaska is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds. None is more avid and articulate than Anchorage-based writer, naturalist, and wilderness advocate Sherwonit (Changing Paths), who has assembled 34 previously published essays on his encounters with some of the state's most iconic species (wolves, caribou, bears, and bald eagles) as well as wildlife of the backyard variety (robins, chickadees, and squirrels). For Sherwonit, there is no animal so insignificant that it can't teach us a profound lesson or embody some magical quality; each is therefore worthy of our respect and attention. In addition to describing the natural history of each animal, he examines broader themes such as the nature of wildness and the ethics of sport hunting. VERDICT While this book has a regional focus to be sure, wildlife enthusiasts in the lower 48 states will appreciate its author's passion for the Alaskan wilderness. (A map would have been a helpful inclusion for readers unfamiliar with Alaskan geography.) Recommended particularly for those who enjoyed Craig Child's The Animal Dialogues." --Library Journal
"Whether writing about grizzlies, dancing cranes, or mad hares, Bill Sherwonit enchants and inspires, reminding us that wildness surrounds us, even if we don't live in Alaska." --Tim Folger, series editor, THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE AND NATURE WRITING
"A well-crafted, eclectic, and engaging combination of memoir, natural history, and keen insight, ANIMAL STORIES delivers a fine read. Bill Sherwonit's three-plus decades of experience with Alaska wildlife, and his love for them all, from grizzlies to robins, shines forth." --Nick Jans, author of A WOLF CALLED ROMEO
"In his ANIMAL STORIES, Bill Sherwonit reminds us that community is built and sustained not only by humans caring for one another, but by humans noticing, coming to know, and caring about their animal neighbors. From the black-capped chickadees at his feeder, to the wood frogs in an urban pond, to the wolverines he encounters on the alpine tundra, Sherwonit celebrates Alaskan wildlife in all its forms with his eyes, ears, heart, and curiosity wide open. In prose that's clear as a rain-washed sky, he observes and writes as a true citizen-naturalist and nature writer." --Eva Saulitis, author of Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss Among Vanishing Orcas