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The Nearctic. Home to Mink and Marten, RVs and Humvees. Where the scenery is larger than life and so are the meals.
Information - sometimes detailed, sometimes less so - on mammal watching in many of the USA's and Canada's states and provinces can be found in the pages linked to the right.
The USA (see State links opposite)
Mammal watching is pretty good in the national parks. The rangers are often clued up on where to find various animals, including some of the more difficult stuff, while picnic grounds, campsites, indeed anywhere that people eat, attract many species, from Pikas through to Moose and Bears.
The scenery in many parks is often nothing short of spectacular, and most places are well set up for camping. But, compared to Australia, the parks are very busy (traffic jams, including ‘bear jams’, are not uncommon) and highly regulated. When I have visited parks I understood that spotlighting was forbidden in most – if not all – national parks. But I have also been advised that spotlighting on foot at least is allowed and perhaps there was a misunderstanding about what "spotlighting" entails. The parks do take their rules quite seriousy though: I was once instructed, via loudspeaker and at gunpoint, to put my hands on the dashboard and remain in my vehicle, when I’d been staking out a dumpster one evening in the middle of a park looking for Black Bears. The ranger decided not to shoot me, settling instead for "Well, fella', I don't have a problem with that. But don't you get out of your vehicle if that bear comes". Despite the crowds, you can usually find solitude by walking a kilometre or so into the ‘backcountry’.
A very brief selection of species seen in various parks follows (usually I’ve just listed the places where I first saw things – species such as deer, squirrels and chipmunks seem to be common in just about every park).
I didn't visit Canada until 2006 when I went to the Yukon for a week, Vancouver Island for 3 days and Baffin Island for a week. I returned later that year for a day in Quebec. In 2008 I spent a week in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Resources - books
Hartson, Tamara. 1999. Squirrels of the West. Lone Pine Publishing. A useful guide to a sometimes tricky family of animals to identify (includes all ground and tree squirrels, chipmunks and marmots).
Kays, R. and Wilson, D. 2002. Mammals of North America. Princeton University Press. This is my favourite of my three North American field guides. Brief notes, and nice illustrations for every species.
National Audubon Society. 1996. Field Guide to North American Mammals. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Not the easiest field guide to use, because the photos of each species are separated from the notes, but a handy size for the field and with a good deal of useful information.
Reid, Fiona A. 2006. Mammals of North America. Peterson Field Guides.Houghton Mifflin. A completely revised version of the Burt & Grossenheider book mentioned above. Photos, illustrations, pictures of skulls etc. The best field guide I've seen.
Wilson, D. and Ruff, S. (eds). 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press. At 450 pages its a bit big for the field but its a fabulous book and the best I have seen for the region.
resources - Websites
The Smithsonian's North American Mammals site is a searchable database of all living mammals in North America. It has a really cool "build your own field guide" feature, whereby you creat a PDF field guide featuring the species you want.