238 pages, 14 plates with 34 colour photos
Based on his more than 40 years of field research, Means, an expert on the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, reveals the biological complexity and beauty of animals that he has studied. Most people loathe these reptiles and amphibians, but Means shows his love for creatures that go bump in the night.
In Australia, Means searches for the fiercey, reputed to be the world's deadliest terrestrial snake. In Mexico, he stalks the rattlesnake that might have served as the model for the mythical plumed serpent of Mayan art. In Florida, he is chased by cottonmouth moccasins. Through his experiences, Means hopes that readers will gain a new appreciation for reptiles.
"Herpetologist Means is a champion of amphibians and reptiles, those creeping animals that most people not only shun but actively loathe. In this collection of essays, tales from 40 years of field research, Means takes readers along on journeys of discovery and, with infectious enthusiasm, makes them care about animals they may never have heard of. Twiddling" a twig two inches from the burrow of an Alabama red hills salamander brings the animal out as she investigates potential prey, and the author discovers that he can see her unlaid eggs through her skin. When "chased" by a cottonmouth, a behavior he had pooh-poohed for years as an old wives' tale, Means realizes that the snake is merely bluffing him out of its way so it can escape. And in the most heart-stopping tale, Means writes of being bitten by an eastern diamondback rattlesnake and of how he barely gets himself to the hospital in time. This is truly a gem of popular science writing and will make herpetophiles out of the most herpetophobic."
- Nancy Bent, Booklist (Friday , August 01, 2008)
"[Means] is a rare scientific spokesperson for the natural world, helping people care about its continued existence."
- Jim Fowler, former Co-Host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
"Means is more than a scientific natural historian. He is an adventurer of the old school."
- E. O. Wilson
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