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Ian Stirling
Photography by Aubrey Lang Mississauga (Ont.), Key Porter Books, 1992. 64pp, cloth, $18.95
ISBN 15501-3296-2. (Natural History series). CIP

Reviewed by Peter Croskery

Volume 20 Number 6
1992 November

Bears is another in Key Porter Books' "Natural History" series, which includes Eagles (1990), Wolves (1990) and Seals (1991). They are designed to serve as introductory reviews for young readers.

Written by Ian Sterling, an international scientific authority on bears, the factual material is accurate and informative. In combination with Aubrey Lang's photos, the book's large format and its high-quality production, this makes for an excellent book.

According to Sterling, there are eight species of bears throughout the world. Although the species vary in size, markings and preferred environment, all species share many characteristics. Stirling's portrait of bears focuses on the similar features, the qualities that "make bears bears."

Stirling briefly touches upon feeding habits, parental care of cubs, winter denning (bears are not hibernators), and territorial behaviour. Although each of these topics has been the subject of considerable scientific research, Stirling does not allow his text to get lost in too much technical detail. Nor does he focus exclusively on a single bear species in describing bear biology.

Throughout the text are a scattering of schematic illustrations that nicely reinforce (and clarify) information found within the body of the text. The size variations of the world's bear species are illustrated in one drawing while another shows the distribution of bears throughout the world. Interestingly enough, only Antarctica, Australia and most of Africa are bear-free.

Although the public is most aware of bears from recreational media stories of bear attacks on humans, this is not a topic covered by Stirling. The author does talk about bear-human relationships; however, his text takes a positive approach, encouraging the public to maintain the world's various bear species as part of our wildlife heritage.

The book is well done and highly recommended for children (between the ages of 8 and 12) wanting to learn about wildlife.

Grades 3 to 7 / Ages 8 to 12

Peter Croskery is a biologist, freelance writer and instructor specializing in environmental issues in Grimsby, Ontario

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