Great Wildlife of the Great Plains

Paul A. Johnsgard

Thundering herds of bison. Burrowing prairie dogs. Soaring golden eagles. These are among the wildlife who will always be linked with the Great Plains, and many can still be seen in their natural habitats. Now there is a single-volume resource that provides an instructive and entertaining commentary on their lives.

Paul Johnsgard is a leading authority on the ecology of the Great Plains and author of more than forty books in natural history. With Great Wildlife of the Great Plains, he has written the first overview of the region's native fauna, a book geared to amateur naturalists and general readers who live in or visit America's vast central expanses.

“Dozens of Johnsgard’s own pen-and-ink drawings are one of the highlights of the volume. The book’s narrative style, along with the pen-and-inks, make it feel like the field notes of a Great Plains wanderer. . . . An excellent resource for novices and veteran naturalists alike.

—North Dakota History

“Highly accessible to the armchair naturalist as well as the veteran biologist, the book offers an interesting read to anyone familiar with or curious about one of our nation's most precious resources. The book reminds us why the Great Plains are so spectacular and why they are worth conserving. . . . The author’s wonderment of the beauty inherent in the Great Plains prevails over pessimism. This book provides a much needed ‘shot in the arm’ for lovers of wildlife and open spaces.

—The Prairie Naturalist
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Choosing from the nearly 600 terrestrial vertebrates found on the Great Plains, Johnsgard focuses on the ecology, behavior, and life histories of 121 notable species that people are most likely to encounter when traveling in the region. He has selected characteristic breeding birds, typical mammals, and conspicuous amphibians and reptiles—as well as additional species of conservation importance, animals of charismatic interest, and selected transients. The book is organized around ten distinct biotic communities, from the different varieties of native prairies to woodlands and wetlands, so that human visitors to those habitats can be on the watch for wildlife most often encountered there. Here are box turtles in the Sandhills grasslands and roadrunners in the shrubsteppes—and coyotes nearly everywhere—and here is Paul Johnsgard to tell us how they go about their lives. Johnsgard's pictorial prose calls to the reader's attention all of the subtleties of geography and life forms associated with these varied ecosystems. More than seventy maps and illustrations enhance his text.

Whether commenting on the feeding and nesting habits of the cuckoo, philosophizing on the aromatic qualities of skunks from a closer range than most of us would dare, or simply celebrating the zigzag hop of the jumping mouse, Johnsgard brings to the page the sharp eye of one who has studied these animals for years and is familiar with their every action. Great Wildlife of the Great Plains is a book with which to travel and from which to learn-a book that speaks to the inner naturalist in every citizen of the Plains.

About the Author

Paul A. Johnsgard is Foundation Professor of Biology at the University of Nebraska. Among his more than forty published books are such encyclopedic works as Hummingbirds of North America and regional guides including Prairie Birds: Fragile Splendor in the Great Plains and This Fragile Land: A Natural History of the Nebraska Sandhills.