Wednesday, October 27

Jaguar picture and information (Felis hernandesi) – spicrm

The jaguar, or “el tigre,” as it is generally known throughout Spanish America, is the largest and handsomest of American cats. Its size and deep yellow color, profusely marked with black spots and rosettes, give it a close resemblance to the African leopard. It is, however, a heavier and more powerful animal.

In parts of the dense tropical forests of South America coal-black jaguars occur, and while representing merely a color phase, they are popularly supposed to be much fiercer than the ordinary animal.

Jaguars are characteristic animals of the tropics in both Americas, frequenting alike the low jungle of arid parts as well as the great forests of the humid regions. In addition, they range south into Argentina and north into the southwestern United States.

Although less numerous within our borders than formerly, they still occur as rare visitants as far north as middle Texas, middle New Mexico, and northern Arizona. They are so strictly nocturnal that their presence in our territory is usually not suspected until, after depredations on stock usually attributed to mountain lions, a trap or poison is put out and reveals a jaguar as the offender.

Although so large and powerful, the jaguar has none of the truculent ferocity of the African leopard. During the years I spent in its country, mainly in the open, I made careful inquiry without hearing of a single case where one had attacked human beings. So far as I could learn, it has practically the same shy and cowardly nature as the mountain lion. Despite this, the natives throughout its tropical home have a great fear of “el tigre,” as I saw evidenced repeatedly in Mexico.

Apparently this fear is based wholly on its strength and potential ability to harm man if it so desired. Jaguars are very destructive to the larger game birds and mammals of their domain and to horses and cattle on ranches. On many large tropical ranches a “tigrero,” or tiger hunter, with a small pack of mongrel dogs, is maintained, whose duty it is immediately to take up the trail when a “tigre” makes its presence known, usually by killing cattle.

The hunter steadily continues the pursuit, sometimes for many days, until the animal is either killed or driven out of the district. It is ordinarily hunted with dogs, which noisily follow the trail, but its speed through the jungle often enables it to escape. When hard pressed it takes to a tree and is easily killed.

Few predatory animals are such wanderers as the jaguar, which roams hundreds of miles from its original home, as shown by its occasional appearance far within our borders. In the heavy tropical forest it so commonly follows the large wandering herds of white-lipped peccaries that some of the Mexicans contend that every large herd is trailed by a tiger to pick up stragglers. Along the Mexican coast in spring, when sea turtles crawl up the beaches to bury their eggs in the sand, the rising sun often reveals the fresh tracks of the jaguar where it has traveled for miles along the shore in search of these savory deposits

Jaguarundi picture and information, Eyra (Felis cacomitli) – spicrm

The eyra differs greatly in general appearance from any of our other cats, although it is one of the most characteristic of the American members of this widely spread family. It is larger than an otter, with a small flattened head, long body, long tail, and short legs, thus having a distinctly otterlike form.

It is characterized by two color phases-one a dull gray or dusky, and the other some shade of rusty rufous. Animals of these different colors were long supposed to represent distinct species, but it has been learned not only that color is the only difference between the two, but also that the two colors are everywhere found together, affording satisfactory evidence that they are merely color phases of the same species.

The eyra is a habitant of brush-grown or forested country, mainly in the lowlands, from the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas south to Paraguay. In this vast territory it has developed a number of geographic races.

In southern Texas, where it is often associated with the ocelot, the eyra lives in dense thorny thickets of mesquites, acacias, iron-wood, and other semitropical chaparral in a region of brilliant sunlight; but farther south it also roams the magnificent forests of the humid tropics, in which the sun rarely penetrates.

It appears to be even more nocturnal and retiring than most of our cats, and but little is known of its life history. The results of thorough trapping in the dense thorny thickets near Brownsville, Texas, indicate that it is probably more common than is generally supposed.

The natives in the lowlands of Guerrero, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, informed me that the eyra in that region is fond of the vicinity of streams, and that it takes to the water and swims freely, crossing rivers whenever it desires. Its otterlike form goes well with such habits, and further information may prove that it is commonly a water-frequenting animal. Its unusual form and dual coloration and our lack of knowledge regarding the life of the eyra unite to make it one of the most interesting of our carnivores.

 

Leopard seal picture and information, Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) – spicrm

The harbor seal, one of the smallest of the hair seals, attaining a length of only 5 or 6 feet, is one of the most widely distributed and best known of its kind.

It is a circumpolar species, formerly ranging well south on the European coast and to the Carolinas on the American side of the Atlantic, though now more restricted in its southern extension. On the North Pacific it ranges south to the coast of Japan on the Asiatic side and to Lower California on the American side.

Throughout its range the harbor seal haunts the coast-line, frequenting rocky points, islets, bays, harbors, and the lower courses of rivers. It commonly frequents the sandy bars exposed at low tide about the mouths of rivers, and has been known to ascend the St. Lawrence to Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario, and the Yukon to several hundred miles above its mouth.

It is still a common and well-known animal on the coast of Maine and eastern Canada and about many harbors on the Pacific coast. It appears to be a non-migratory species and in northern waters frequents the pack ice along shore in winter. Where the pack is unbroken, the seal makes breathing holes through the ice, which it visits at intervals, and where it is hunted by the Eskimos.

It is not polygamous and is not so strongly gregarious as some of the other seals. That it has some social instinct is evident, however, since it commonly gathers in small herds on the same sand spits, rocky points, and islets. The young are born in early spring and at first are entirely covered with a woolly white coat. The mother is devoted to the “pup” and shows the deepest anxiety if danger threatens.

The flesh and blubber of this seal are highly prized by the Eskimos as the most palatable of all the seals, and the skin is valued for clothing and for making strong rawhide lines used for nets and other purposes. On the Alaskan coast of Bering Sea in fall the Eskimos capture many seals in nets set off rocky points, just as gill nets are set in the same places in spring for salmon.

Owing to the presence of this seal along so many inhabited coasts, much has been written concerning its habits, especially as observed about the shores of the British Isles. Where not disturbed it shows little fear and will swim about boats or ships, raising its head high out of water and gazing steadily with large intelligent eyes at the object of its curiosity; but when hunted it becomes exceedingly shy and wary. All who have held the harbor seal in captivity agree in praising its intelligence. It becomes very docile, often learning a variety of amusing tricks, and develops great affection for its keeper.

The small size of this seal and its limited numbers are elements which save it from extensive commercial hunting and may preserve it far into the future to add life and interest to many a rocky coast.