Get acquainted with the natural world with these animal-oriented reads.
Whether your addiction is watching birds or petting furry friends, you know that animals are endlessly interesting. Oklahoma authors who write about animals are as interesting as the animals they write about.
Discover Norbert Smith, aka Doc Gator. Smith lives south of Weatherford, where he grew up and has authored 11 books. A retired zoologist and a Texas Tech Ph.D., Smith’s lifelong passion is observing nature. In particular, using radio telemetry to investigate animal behavior. His book “Passive Fear: Alternative to Fight or Flight” (iUniverse, 2006, $13.95) reveals as much about Smith as the alligators he observes.
Smith determined that alligators submerged underwater, when frightened, correspondingly lower their heart rate to almost zilch. So do groundhogs when they hide in their burrows and possums when they feign death. Today, the phenomenon is studied as a possible explanation for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
The book is a study of the author, too. He relives his journeys, starting as a young man chasing and analyzing alligators in Welder Refuge in south Texas, groundhogs on Buzzard Island in Tenkiller Lake, squirrels in eastern Oklahoma, turtles in the Cayman Islands, reptiles in western Oklahoma and his cat at home.
Greg and Lynnette Sievert have written and continue to update “A Field Guide to Oklahoma’s Amphibians and Reptiles” (Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 2005). The Sieverts teach at Emporia University in Kansas. Greg also taught at the University of Oklahoma, and Lynnette received her Ph.D. there. Greg was president of the Oklahoma Herpetology Society for two years.
There are 162 species of cold-blooded animals in Oklahoma. We boast more species than most because of our central location. Therefore reptiles, salamanders, snakes, toads and lizards congregate here at their outer regions of climate viability. Greg Sievert has photographed every one of them.
He and his wife fondly reminisce about trekking in rural Oklahoma, looking at and shooting images of amphibians and reptiles. The reader can only wonder at the dedication.
The field guide is available at the Tulsa Zoo gift shop. It is a handy reference if you hike or have young children who are intrigued with creatures they encounter. Also, visit oklahomasnakes.com to identify backyard reptiles.
Alice Lindsay Price is Tulsa’s legendary naturalist. If you have not read her book “Swans in the World: In Nature, History, Myth & Art” (Council Oak Publishing Co., 1994, $26.95), it is time you do. Her book is a combination of myth, literary/cultural references, history and biology. Price is a combination of artist, English teacher and ornithologist. Her fascination began at Swan Lake Park, photographing the graceful birds. Twelve years and many miles traveled later, her book is the quintessential text of this oft-misunderstood, but always revered, fowl.
Price has written a book on cranes, too, and is currently researching and writing about vultures.
The past president of the Oklahoma Federation of Writers, Amy Shojai, is a certified pet behaviorist and has written 22 books on dogs and cats. Her book “PETiQuette” (M. Evans and Company Inc., 2005, $15.95) discusses how to solve problems in a multi-pet household. The well-written text is arranged for quick reference, including a handy index. Shojai suggests using flower essence therapy to help pets in the same home make peace. It makes sense because dogs’ noses are so sensitive.
Shojai intended to be an opera singer and earned a degree in musical performance from Goshen College. Before and during college, she worked for veterinarians and got hooked. When the opera career didn’t happen, she started writing for the “pet press” and worked her way up to spokesperson for Purina Pet Foods. Visit shojai.com.