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A Teacher's Guide

Mammals of North America

For Discussion

  1. What mammals are common in your community, state, and region? Which of them have you seen, and what were the circumstances? What mammals are seen in your neighborhood or near your school? What do these mammals have in common?

  2. What are the main threats to mammals and their habitats in your community, state, or region? What can you do to remove or ease those threats? Which of those threats point up most dramatically the relationship between humans and other mammals?

  3. The standard method of classifying mammals follows the Linnaean system, based upon genera and species. The groupings in Mammals of North America are based on other criteria — as displayed in the Pictorial Table of Contents on pages 2 – 5. What other methods of classification might be appropriate for the mammals found in your neighborhood, state, and region?

  4. What habitats are there in your community and area (including your backyard) that support mammals? What mammals are found in each specific type of habitat? What is the relationship between the habitats and the animals found in each?

  5. What signs might we look for in order to find mammals? What signs of the presence of mammals have you seen?


  1. Maintain a sighting log or field notebook over the course of a year.

  2. Select a threatened or endangered North American mammal. (Lists are available from county or state agencies and at http://endangered.fws.gov/.) Prepare a report on the threats to the species, its present status, and actions being taken to protect it.

  3. Write a poem, story, or essay about your favorite mammal.

  4. Select a mammal that you think is similar to yourself and write a description of that animal and an explanation of the similarities.

  5. Look through Mammals of North America to find a mammal in your state or region that you would like to see in the wild. On the basis of the range maps, text, and illustrations, where would you go to see that mammal, what habitat would you search, and what would you expect the animal to be doing when you found it? How would you recognize it and distinguish it from other similar mammals?

  6. Select a specific habitat (a backyard, park, vacant lot, or portion of a local nature preserve, for example), maintain a list of mammals observed there over a specific time period, and describe the components of the habitat that contribute to its carrying capacity.

  7. Among the land mammals (the first 13 groups in the book), there is a great variation in size, from mice and shrews to bears, elk, and bison. Studying the species descriptions and the sizes given, decide whether there are more species of large mammals or more species of small mammals. What explanations might there be for more species in a specific size range than others?


  1. Create a display with articles, photographs, other illustrations, and ads in local, regional, and national newspapers and magazines having to do with mammals that live in your area.

  2. Invite a wildlife biologist or other expert to talk to the class about mammals in your area, their role in the environment, and the importance of conservation.

  3. Undertake one or more of the activities suggested by American Field Guide (www.pbs.org/americanfieldguide/teachers/mammals/mammals_sum.html).

  4. Using Mammals of North America as a guide, make a chart of the mammals most common to your area or region and post it in a convenient location. Check off each species observed, note the date(s) and time(s) of day, briefly describe the weather, and initial. Next to the chart, post a brief description and a picture of each species observed.

  5. Visit a nearby nature reserve, park, or other habitat, preferably with an official guide or member of a local nature club. Maintain notebooks throughout the visit — recording observations, information received, and any special circumstances — and be prepared to discuss your observations in class.

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