Several species of fur seals are known, all of them limited to the southern oceans or the coasts and islands of the North Pacific. All are strongly gregarious and formerly sought their island breeding grounds in vast numbers. At one period, soon after the purchase of Alaska, it was estimated that several million fur seals were on the Pribilof Islands in one season.
During the height of their abundance the southern fur seals were equally numerous. The value of their skins and the facility with which these animals may be slaughtered have resulted in the practical extermination of all but those which breed tinder governmental protection on the Russian islands off the coast of Kamchatca and on the Pribilof Islands in Alaska.
The Alaska fur seal is a migratory species, wintering down the Pacific coast as far as northern California. The migrations of these seals are of remark,able interest. In spring they leave the northwest coast and many of them travel steadily across more than two thousand miles of the North Pacific. For days at a time they swim through a roaring galeswept sea, under dense, low-hanging clouds, and with unerring certainty strike certain passages in the Aleutian Islands, through which they press to their breeding grounds, more than 100 miles beyond, on the small, fog-hidden Pribilof Islands.
Fur seals are extremely polygamous and the old males, which weigh from 400 to 500 pounds, “haul up” first on the breeding beaches. Each bull holds a certain area, and as the females, only one-fifth his size, come ashore they are appropriated by the nearest bulls until each “beach master” gathers a harem, sometimes containing more than 100 members.
Here the young are born, and after the mating season the seals, which have remained ashore without food from four to six weeks, return to the water. The mothers go and come, and each is able to find her young with certainty among thousands of apparently identical woolly black “pups.”
From the ages of one to four years fur seals are extremely playful. They are marvelous swimmers and frolic about in pursuit of one another, now diving deep and then, one after the other, suddenly leaping high above the surface in graceful curves, like porpoises. Squids and fish of various species are their main food. Their chief natural enemy is the killer whale, which follows their migrations and haunts the sea about their breeding grounds, taking heavy toll among them.
Since the discovery of the Pribilof Islands by the Russians the fur seal herds there have vielded more than five million recorded skins. A census of the herds in 1914 gave these islands nearly three hundred thousand seals. Now that pelagic sealing has been suppressed and the herds are being protected, there is every reason to expect that the seals will increase rapidly to something like their former numbers.
Alaska Red Fox picture and information pandurro hobby
The red fox (Vulpes kenaiensis) of the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and the adjacent mainland is probably the largest of its kind in the world, although those of Kodiak Island and of the Mackenzie River valley are nearly as large. Compared with its relatives of the United States, the Kenai fox is a giant, with heavier, duller-colored coat and a huge tail, more like that of a wolf than of a fox. The spruce and birch forests of Alaska and the Mackenzie Valley are apparently peculiarly adapted to red foxes, as shown by the development there of these animals good illustrations of the relative increase in size and vigor of animals in a specially favorable environment.
As noted in the general account of the red foxes, the occurrence of the black phase is sporadic, and the relative number of dark individuals varies greatly in different parts of their range. The region about the upper Yukon and its tributaries and the Mackenzie River basin are noted for the number of black foxes produced, apparently a decidedly greater proportion than 111 any other similarly large area.
Like other red foxes, the Alaskan species digs its burrows, with several entrances, in some dry secluded spot, where both male and female share in the care of the young. In northern wilds the food problem differs from that in a settled country. There the surrounding wild life is the only dependence, and varying hares, lemmings, and other mice are usually to be had by the possessor of a keen scent and an active body. In summer many nesting wild-fowl and their young are easy prey, while heathberries and other northern fruits are also available.
Winter brings a season of scarcity, when life requires the exercise of every trained faculty. The snow-white ptarmigan is then a prize to be gained only by the most skillful stalking, and the white hare is almost equally difficult to secure. At this season foxes wander many miles each day, their erratic tracks in the snow telling the tale of their industrious search for prey in every likely spot. It is in this season of insistent hunger that many of them fall victims to the wiles of trappers or to the unscrupulous hunter who scatters poisoned baits.
Fortunately the season for trapping these and other fur-bearers in Alaska is limited by law and the use of poisons is forbidden. These measures will aid in preserving one of the valuable natural assets of these northern wilds.
Arizona coyote picture and information, Mearns (Canis mearnsi) pandurro hobby
The Arizona coyote is one of the smallest and at the same time the most handsomely colored of all its kind. Its home is limited to the arid deserts on both sides of the lower Colorado River, but mainly in southwestern Arizona and adjacent parts of Sonora.
This is one of the hottest and most arid regions of the continent, and for coyotes successfully to hold their own there requires the exercise of all the acute intelligence for which they are noted.
Instead of the winter blizzards and biting cold encountered in the home of the plains coyote, this southern species has to endure the furnacelike heat of summer, with occasional long periods of drought, when water-holes become dry, plant life becomes dormant, and a large part of the smaller mammal life perishes.
The Arizona coyote, like others of its kind, is omnivorous. In seasons of plenty, rabbits, kangaroo rats, pocket gophers, and many other desert rodents cost only the pleasant excitement of a short stalk.
With the changing seasons the flesh diet is varied by the sugary mesquite beans, juicy cactus fruit, and other products of thorny desert plants. Wherever sufficient water is available for irrigation, small communities of Indians or Mexicans are to be found.
About such centers many coyotes usually establish themselves and fatten on poultry, green corn, melons, and other fruits provided by the labor of man. Many of them also patrol the shores of the Gulf of California and feast upon the eggs of turtles and other spoils of the sea.
The arrival of men at a desert water-hole is quickly known among these alert foragers, and when the travelers arise at daybreak they are likely to see tell-tale tracks on the sand where one or two coyotes have walked in and out between their sleeping places and all about camp.
Shortly afterward the campers, if inexperienced, may learn that bacon and other food are contraband and always confiscated by these dogs of the desert. These camp marauders often stand among the bushes only 75 or 100 yards away in the morning and watch the intruders with much curiosity until some hostile movement starts them off in rapid flight.