The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild

Little, Brown. 2013. 352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780316178525. $26. NAT HIST
A medieval bestiary was an illustrated volume that presented moralistic human characteristics in the form of animal behavior. Haupt (Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness) here encourages readers to understand the creatures sharing our modern urban ecosystem—moles, squirrels, house sparrows, coyotes, and others—aiming to help city dwellers live with neighboring wildlife. She explores our perception of each species, its natural history, why it is well suited to urban backyards, and how to coexist, minimizing negative impacts. Haupt recommends practical tips such as bringing in pet food and water dishes at night to remove invitations for raccoon mischief. Readers learn more than expected about each animal; for example, Haupt explains that opossums have 50 teeth, the most of any mammal in North America. The author shares her immediate and personal experiences regarding peaceful coexistence between humans and urban animals. She exhorts us to observe nature around us, chronicle what we see, and harmonize ourselves with the surrounding wildlife.
VERDICT Nature lovers, gardeners, and birders will find this fascinating; those less connected to nature may have their eyes opened by some of Haupt's reflections.
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