Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 28th, 2011
There is a good critique of Chad Arment’s book, Varmints: Mystery Carnivores of North America in the Aiken Standard.
Reviewer Whit Gibbons opens up with:
“Varmints: Mystery Carnivores of North America” is an entertaining mix of exciting, sometimes scary, always informative facts and fantasy about terrestrial mammals that kill or scavenge other animals, including an occasional human. Written by Chad Arment (2010, Coachwhip Publications, Landisville, Pa.; $29.95), “Varmints” addresses scientific facts, folklore, and hoaxes surrounding some of the country’s most intriguing creatures that people have encountered, or reportedly encountered, including lions, tigers, and bears.
Gibbons appears to be on the skeptical end of the media, with a bit of something more thrown in when he notes: “Little coverage is given to Big Foot, Hogzilla, and Lizard Man.”
Some of the examples Gibbons recounts, apparently on purpose, are cases that were explainable.
But in the end, Gibbons alerts the readers to the open-mindedness that Arment demonstrates throughout his book:
The book recounts stories of unusual variations of native species. One intriguing example from the Northwest was the so-called lava bear, supposedly a species of dwarf grizzly bear that weighed only 25 to 30 pounds as an adult. The claims were based on citizen reports, not scientific confirmation, and eventually the little bear was said to have gone extinct. Arment does not categorically discount the existence or scientific validity of the dwarf grizzly or other animals discussed in the book. Instead, he suggests that further scientific inquiry might be needed to confirm or refute the assertions. Among the other creatures mentioned in the book are red wolves, Carolina dogs, and great white wolves, all of which are associated with some level of biological intrigue that the author feels could warrant further cryptozoological investigation.
Of interest to most people, no matter where they live, would be the local coverage of newspaper articles with headlines such as “Car Is Attacked by Black Panther in Talladega Co. [Alabama] and “Pelion Area on Look Out for Tiger [South Carolina].” Alaskans aren’t as concerned about big cats as they are with other large predators, as the headline “Monstrous Polar Bear Roams Alaskan Coast” attests. A “30-foot-long polar bear” would indeed be a monster.
Arment’s book confirms people’s fascination with mystery animals, even if the varmint’s existence cannot be validated.