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Our look is the result of reader comments, our own experimentation, and feedback from distribution channels. Distinctive covers complement our distinctive approach to technical topics, breathing personality and life into potentially dry subjects.

The animals on the cover of Essential SNMP are red deer (Cervus elaphus). Male red deer, also known as stags or harts, can grow to over 400 lbs. and stand 42-54 inches tall at the shoulder. Females, or hinds, are more slightly built and usually reach a weight of only about 200 lbs. The color of the red deer's coat ranges from a warm reddish-brown in the summer to a darker grayish-brown in winter. Calves are spotted at birth, but the spots fade after about two months.

The typical family group consists of a hind, a new calf, a yearling calf, and perhaps a 2-3 year old stag. Mature stags and hinds live in separate groups for most of the year, with the hinds tending to monopolize the better, more grassy habitats. At the start of the mating season (the rut) in the early fall, the stags split up and join the females. Each eligible stag establishes a harem of up to 20 or more hinds, which he defends vigorously during the rut. During this period, which typically lasts 6-8 weeks, the stags often forego eating and can lose as much as 15% of their body mass.

Red deer are one of the most widely distributed deer species: though they are native to Europe, today they can be found everywhere from New Zealand to North America. They are herbivores, feeding mainly on rough grasses, young tree shoots, and shrubs. Forest-dwellers by nature, they can adapt easily to different climates and terrain. In many of the areas in which they were introduced red deer are commercially farmed for venison and antler velvet, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years to treat a broad range of ailments including anemia, arthritic pain and rheumatism, kidney disorders, and stress.

Rachel Wheeler was the production editor and copyeditor for Essential SNMP. Colleen Gorman was the proofreader and Catherine Morris provided quality control. Sada Preisch provided production assistance. Jan Wright wrote the index.

Ellie Volckhausen designed the cover of this book, based on a series design by Edie Freedman. The cover image is a 19th-century engraving from the Dover Pictorial Archive. Emma Colby produced the cover layout with QuarkXPress 4.1 using Adobe's ITC Garamond font.

David Futato designed the interior layout based on a series design by Nancy Priest. Neil Walls converted the files from Microsoft Word to FrameMaker 5.5.6 using tools created by Mike Sierra. The text and heading fonts are ITC Garamond Light and Garamond Book; the code font is Constant Willison. The illustrations that appear in the book were produced by Robert Romano and Jessamyn Read using Macromedia FreeHand 9 and Adobe Photoshop 6. This colophon was written by Rachel Wheeler.

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