Wednesday, October 27

Ocelot picture and information, Tiger cat (Felis pardalis) – tropichem research labs

The brushy and forested areas of America from southern Texas and Sonora to Paraguay are inhabited by spotted cats of different species, varying from the size of a large house cat to that of a Canada lynx. Only one of these occurs in the United States.

All are characterized by long tails and a yellowish ground color, conspicuously marked by black spots, and on neck and back by short, longitudinal stripes – a color pattern that strongly suggests the leopard.

In the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas the tiger-cat is rather common, with the eyracat, in areas densely overgrown with thorny chaparral. Like most of the cat tribe, it is strictly nocturnal and by day lies well hidden in its brushy shelter. By night it wanders along trails over a considerable territory, seeking its prey.

Birds of all kinds, including domestic poultry, are captured on their roosts, and rabbits, wood rats, and mice of many kinds, as well as snakes and other reptiles, are on its list of game.

Its reptile-eating habit was revealed to me unexpectedly one day in the dense tropical forest of Chiapas. I was riding along a steep trail beside a shallow brush-grown ravine when a tiger-cat suddenly rushed up the trunk of a tree close by. I found it lying in the ravine by the body of a recently killed boa about 6 or 7 feet long. It had eaten the boa’s head and neck when my approach interrupted the feast.

The tiger-cat is much more quiet and less fierce in disposition than most felines. The tiger-cat brings within our fauna an interesting touch of the tropics and its exuberance of animal life. It is found in so small a corner of our territory, however, that, despite its mainly inoffensive habits, it is certain to be crowded out in the near future by the increased occupation of its haunts.

 

Pacific walrus (Odobenus obesus) – tropichem research labs

The walruses, or “sea horses” of the old navigators, are the strangest and most grotesque of all sea mammals. Their large, rugged heads, armed with two long ivory tusks, and their huge swollen bodies, covered with hairless, wrinkled, and warty skin, gives them a formidable appearance unlike that of any other mammal. They are much larger than most seals, the old males weighing from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds and the females about two-thirds as much.

These strange beasts are confined to the Arctic Ocean and the adjacent coasts and islands and are most numerous about the borders of the pack ice. Two species are known, one belonging to the Greenland seas, while the other, the Pacific walrus, is limited to Bering Sea and the Arctic basin beyond Bering Straits.

The Pacific walruses migrate southward through Bering Straits with the pack ice in fall and spend the winter in Bering Sea and along the adjacent coast of eastern Asia. In spring they return northward through the straits and pass the breeding season about the ice pack, where they congregate in great herds. One night in July 1881, the U.S. steamer Corwin cruised for hours along the edge of the ice pack off the Arctic coast of Alaska and saw an almost unbroken line of walruses hauled but on the ice, forming an extended herd which must have contained tens of thousands.

Walruses were formerly very abundant in Bering Sea, especially about the Fur Seal Islands and along the coast north of the Peninsula of Alaska, but few now survive there. Owing to the value of their thick skins, blubber, and ivory tusks, they have been subjected to remorseless pursuit since the early Russian ccupation of their territory and have, as a result, become extinct in parts of their former range and the species is now in serious danger of extermination.

Like many of the seals, walruses have a strong social instinct, and although usually seen in herds they are not polygamous. They feed mainly on clams or other shellfish, which they gather on the bottom of the shallow sea. On shore or on the ice they move slowly and with much difficulty, but in the water they are thoroughly at home and good swimmers. When hauled out on land or ice, they usually lie in groups one against the other. They are stupid beasts and hunters have no difficulty in killing them with rifles at close range.

Walruses have a strongly developed maternal instinct and show great devotion and disregard of their own safety in defending the young. The Eskimos at Cape Vancouver, Bering Sea, hunt them in frail skin-covered kyaks, using ivory- or bone- pointed spears and sealskin floats. Several people told me of exciting and dangerous encounters they had experienced with mother walruses. If the young are attacked, or even approached, the mother does not hesitate to charge furiously.

When boats approach the edge of the ice where walruses are hauled up, the animals plunge into the sea in a panic and rise all about the intruders, bellowing and rushing about, rearing their huge heads and gleaming white tusks high out of water in an alarming manner. As a rule, however, they are timid and seek only to escape, although occasionally, in their excitement, one has been known to attack a boat and by a single blow of its tusks to do serious damage and endanger the crew.

 

Plains coyote picture and information, Prairie wolf (Canis latrans) – tropichem research labs

Western North America is inhabited by a peculiar group of small wolves, known as coyotes, this being a, Spanish corruption of the Aztec name coyotl. They range from northern Michigan, northern Alberta, and British Columbia south to Costa Rica, and from western Iowa and Texas to the Pacific coast.

As a group they are animals of the open plains and sparsely wooded districts, ranging from sea-level to above timber-line on the highest mountains. They are most at home on the wide brushy or grassy plains of the western United States and the table-lands of Mexico.

Within their great area coyotes have developed several distinct species and a number of geographic races, distinguished by differences in size, color, and other characteristics. Some attain a size almost equaling that of the gray wolf, while others are much smaller.

They are less courageous and have less of the social instinct than gray wolves, and on the rare occasions when they hunt in packs they form, no doubt, a family party, including the young of the year. They appear to pair more or less permanently and commonly hunt in couples.

The young, sometimes numbering as many as fourteen, are born in a burrow dug in a bank, or in a den among broken rocks and ledges. Young animals are readily tamed, and it is entirely probable that some of the dogs found by early explorers among western Indians may have descended from coyotes.

Coyotes are a familiar sight to travelers in the wildest parts of the West. Here and there one is seen trotting through the sagebrush or other scrubby growth, or stopping to gaze curiously at the intruder. If suddenly alarmed, they race away across the plains with amazing speed. At night their high-pitched, wailing howls voice the lonely spirit of waste places.

With the growth of settlement in the West and the steady decrease of large and small game, coyotes became more and more destructive to poultry and all kinds of live stock. As a result, every man’s hand was against them, reinforced by gun, trap, and poison. Despite years of this persistent warfare, their acute intelligence, aided by their extraordinary fecundity, has enabled them to hold their own over a great part of their original range.

The complete destruction of coyotes would, no doubt, upset the balance of nature in favor of rabbits, prairie-dogs, and other harmful rodents, and thus result in a very serious increase in the destruction of crops.

The coyote supplies much interest and local color to many dreary landscapes and has become a prominent figure in the literature of the West. There it is usually symbolic of shifty cunning and fleetness of foot. Whatever his faults, the coyote is an amusing and interesting beast, and it is hoped that the day of his complete disappearance from our wild life may be far in the future.