Oliver G Pike

Books - Wild Animals in Britain

This was Oliver Pike's last book: it was written at Leighton Buzzard in 1949 and published in 1950 by Macmillan. It is possibly the only one of his books that contains no photographs of birds and hardly any mention of them either.

This volume is about the mammals, reptiles and amphibians that live in Britain. Macmillan published companion volumes in the same format on flowers, trees, birds and dogs. Many sets must have been bought for school libraries for "Nature Study".

Most of the photographs, but not all, are his own work and there are several coloured plates from paintings by William Reeves.

Wild Animals in Britain Cover

Wild Animals in Britain

The vast majority of this book is about mammals: each one is described in detail, including even the formula for its dentition.

It is clear that Oliver Pike was very unhappy about the introduction of the grey squirrel to Britain. He states that it is much more destructive than the native red squirrel and is responsible for much predation of birds' eggs.

Reptiles and amphibians are also covered, with photographs showing the life-cycle of the common frog and how the common toad flicks its tongue (which is hinged at the front) to catch its prey.

This book is a handbook and guide to these creatures, and it contains a few interesting anecdotes from the author's experience. One of these relates how a pair of grey squirrels distracted him in Regent's Park, London. This was at the beginning of the First World War and he was in a Royal Flying Corps party being drilled by a sergeant-major. He was shouted at in "army language" with the usual allusions to his ancestry.