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The Great Alaska Nature Factbook

"Nature writer Ewing delights in the unusual and brings a mischievous sense of humor to transform an overwhelming amount of information into engaging and reader-friendly entries sure to delight anyone with a curiosity about the natural world."

--Alaska Magazine (Editor's Choice)

From the introduction

When I was still in high school, around 1970, I went with a friend for an afternoon drive in rural Kentucky. We stopped at a café for pie and began talking with the waitress, who had just come back from Alaska.

“It’s soooo big,” she said softly. Her eyes kind of glazed over as she leaned on the lunch counter, staring out the plate glass window to the tameness of farm country. I never forgot the look on her face, and a few years later I went to find out for myself just how big. I spent a dozen years measuring: walking the frozen rivers of the Interior in winter and floating them in summer. Trolling for salmon and watching whales in Southeast. Making Christmas-night dump runs in Prudhoe Bay to see the ravens and arctic foxes gathered on garbage piles. Bathing in arctic hot springs while camped in the snow. Bumming plane rides and boat rides, figuring, figuring. Soooo big…

Bear—a small word for such a large presence, not only in the physical sense (brown bears can weigh over a thousand pounds) but also in the abstract sense: knowing you’re in bear country makes for prickly sensations of anticipation, excitement, and heightened awareness. Bears are as much part of the Alaska landscape as trappers’ cabins and blueberries. . .

Beavers are the Clark Kents of the animal world. Shy and unassuming, the beaver is in truth a formidable force, influencing the landscape more than any other nonhuman animal. With self-sharpening, perpetually renewing incisors and unstoppable stick-to-it-iveness, beavers create ponds and wetlands for themselves and, consequently, for other animals; the sound of flowing water throws them into a tizzy of purpose: dam it, dam it, dam it.